It’s In Your Pre-Historic DNA
So why did this tough, teen-aged, survival of the fittest champ settle down and make huge sacrifices for his family? Brain research has given us some insight into why and how the wild teenage cave boy transformed into a monogamous family man (i.e. dad).
Keeping his children alive ignited an enormous instinctual commitment that the Cave Dad got from his paternal ancestors, whose own instinctual urges to keep their babies alive and thriving became imprinted in their genes. The lineage of Cave Dads without this instinct died out, leaving only those with it to create another generation. Survival of the fittest refers not only to strength but to compassion and care as well.
This took the form of powerful biological drivers that were passed down through his DNA to his sons, their sons, and eventually to you.
In a 70-year study of the modern Neanderthal (268 male Harvard sophomores recruited in the early 1940s) what turned out to be most important in their lives? Relationships. Family. To be needed, to protect and take care of their own. Loving and being loved. Despite our macho fantasies, these qualities turn out to be the essence of our manhood.
It’s been a relatively short time in human development between the Cave Dad and now, so modern dads still get the Cave Dad biological turbo boost. Your genetic daddy programming starts up as soon as you learn you are going to be a father and dramatically ramps up at your child’s birth. This programming will help drive you to protect, love, care, and provide for your family, no matter what. Much like the caveman, you will transform into someone special: a turbocharged, 21st Century Cave Dad.
By the mid-1900’s, fathers increasingly identified with their work, and this competed with their families for time, attention, and loyalty. Increasing affluence meant nicer homes with dishwashers and vacuums that made life easier for moms, who did not have nearly the same opportunities in the workforce. Moms largely took over on the home front, to the point that it was a matter of pride for mothers to roll their eyes and remark that fathers had no clue of how to take care of a baby.
Fathers embraced this opportunity to avoid dirty diapers and crying babies, and as their hands-on care diminished, their innate dad instincts went into hibernation. They didn’t know what they were giving up, and were even banned from the delivery room. When they were around, fathers were relegated to the role of breadwinners and disciplinarians (“Wait until your father gets home!”). For many, these thankless tasks were a recipe for distant relationships and, ultimately, disengagement from their children.
In the decline of dads, failure became an option for way too many. When their own fathers failed, they didn’t know what to do when they became one, many others were pushed out by family breakups, and some simply didn’t man up to the job. As a result, far too many children did not have a father who loved and cared for them, and far too many men went without the love and respect of their children.