Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A focus on fathers: The science of dads

Anthropologist James Rilling with his son Toby, 8, and daughter Mia, 2. (Photo by Becky Stein)

Want to do something special for a father on June 16? Try asking him what he finds most rewarding — and most challenging — about being a dad.

James Rilling, an anthropologist at Emory University, recently completed in-depth interviews on that topic with 120 new fathers. Rilling and his colleague Craig Hadley, also an anthropologist at Emory, are still analyzing data from the interviews for a comprehensive study.

One result, however, is already clear. A positive-and-negative-affect scale administered to the subjects before and after the interviews shows how talking about fatherhood influenced their moods. “Most of them experienced an increase in how enthusiastic, proud and inspired they felt after talking about their experience as a father,” Rilling says. “They seemed to find it therapeutic to talk about their feelings surrounding being a father, particularly if they were struggling with some things. The challenges of being a mother are often much greater. So fathers may think that nobody really wants to hear about the things they are dealing with as a new parent.”

Read more about Rilling's work here, and learn five surprising facts about fathers.

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