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Fatherhood: Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior [Hardcover]

Peter B. Gray , Kermyt G. Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

May 1 2010

We've all heard that a father's involvement enriches the lives of children. But how much have we heard about how having a child affects a father's life? As Peter Gray and Kermyt Anderson reveal, fatherhood actually alters a man's sexuality, rewires his brain, and changes his hormonal profile. His very health may suffer—in the short run—and improve in the long. These are just a few aspects of the scientific side of fatherhood explored in this book, which deciphers the findings of myriad studies and makes them accessible to the interested general reader.

Since the mid-1990s Anderson and Gray, themselves fathers of young children, have been studying paternal behavior in places as diverse as Boston, Albuquerque, Cape Town, Kenya, and Jamaica. Their work combines the insights of evolutionary and comparative biology, cross-cultural analysis, and neural physiology to deepen and expand our understanding of fatherhood—from the intense involvement in childcare seen in male hunter-gatherers, to the prodigality of a Genghis Khan leaving millions of descendants, to the anonymous sperm donor in a fertility clinic.

Looking at every kind of fatherhood—being a father in and out of marriage, fathering from a distance, stepfathering, and parenting by gay males—this book presents a uniquely detailed picture of how being a parent fits with men's broader social and work lives, how fatherhood evolved, and how it differs across cultures and through time.


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This is a remarkable book, both for its clarity and for its depth of research and detail. What makes it unique is the authors' multicultural and evolutionary approach to the issue of fatherhood. Among the elite group of scholars who study evolutionary anthropology, I can't think of a pair more qualified to write this book than Gray and Anderson.
--Richard Bribiescas, Yale University

This book should be required reading for all fathers and potential fathers. Whether a man is contemplating starting a family down the road as a biological father or buying one ready-made off the shelf as a stepfather, this is the indispensable guidebook for trying to be good at fatherhood. Similarly, for social and behavioral scientists interested in families and parenting from a cross-cultural perspective, this will become the standard reference for years to come. No matter what perspective one brings to the table--this reviewer's happens to be evolutionary--there is plenty here to make one think. It is almost scary how much information Gray and Anderson pack in this book, let alone how easy it is to read.
--M. J. O'Brien (Choice 2010-10-01)

Gray and Anderson's Fatherhood: Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior, provides a much needed perspective on men's parenting in general, as well as nuanced discussion of how this parenting varies across cultures, historical periods within cultures, and across individual men. The evolutionary perspective is critical, but equally important is the focus on fatherhood, as books and articles on fatherhood are dwarfed by a large and growing body of research on motherhood and alloparenting. In redressing this balance, Gray and Anderson do for fatherhood what [Sarah] Hrdy has done for motherhood...Essential reading for anyone interested in fatherhood and...an excellent starting point for researchers who want to pursue evolutionarily informed studies of fatherhood. Perhaps the most important quality of this work is that it should spark the interest of young evolutionary minded scholars, such that in coming decades fatherhood will be studied with the same care and depth that motherhood has been.
--Drew H. Bailey, Benjamin Winegard, and David C. Geary (Evolutionary Psychology 2010-06-25)

Gray, and Anderson's Fatherhood: Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior is a timely publication that brings together a wide range of research on fathers, the expression of paternal care, and the impacts of paternal involvement. Indeed, for scholars interested in male reproductive ecology or parental investment, among other anthropological topics, Fatherhood would stand on the merits of its review of the existing scholarship on fatherhood. More notably, however, using an erudite, yet, conversational style, Gray and Anderson apply principles of evolutionary theory to this body of literature in a heretofore-missing compilation...Altogether Gray and Anderson present a host of interesting studies that illustrate the unique ways in which humans and other species experience fatherhood under the skin and, even so, elucidate the extent to which researchers have only scratched the surface in these exciting new domains. In total, Gray and Anderson's Fatherhood adds richly to the ways we think about infant care and human cooperation as being foremost to understanding aspects of human evolution...Gray and Anderson have made a significant contribution to the field of biological anthropology. Appealing to both scholars and nonscholars alike, this text represents a new "go-to" source for those wishing to learn about evolutionary, anthropological approaches to human and hominin fatherhood. For those of us who seek to teach the value of a truly integrative approach to these subjects, this book will undoubtedly prove to be a highly valuable commodity at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
--Lee T. Gettler (American Journal of Human Biology)

[Fatherhood] is helping fill the research gap about fathers. It describes, based on masses of scientific evidence, the so-called "Dad Effect." Or, how fatherhood changes men.
--Douglas Todd (Vancouver Sun 2011-06-18)

About the Author

Peter B. Gray is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Kermyt G. Anderson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book on fatherhood Aug. 4 2010
By A. Volk #1 REVIEWER #1 HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book claims that it aims itself towards a general audience, rather than towards an academic audience. They also claim that they aren't offering advice so much as an explanation for why fathers parent the way that they do. Generally speaking, I find that those two claims are hard to reconcile. In my experience, non-academic fathers generally want a book that offers them practical advice, while academics want lots of cutting-edge science written in scientific lingo. So in that regard, it's hard to evaluate this book.

As an academic exercise, it's pretty good. Gray and Anderson are both professors who study fatherhood from a biological/evolutionary perspective. The book covers a wide range of topics, from hormones, to paternity, to cross-cultural models of parenting. In general, I found that it was a pretty good introduction to the topic. I found that the book was at its best when focusing on each author's specialty (paternity-Anderson, hormones-Gray). Experts in the field will probably find a few bits of information in here that they didn't know before, as it's relatively comprehensive and current. That said, I found that there were some minor errors or discrepancies in the authors' data.

The writing in the book is not aimed at too high of an audience, but again, it's perhaps not practical enough to be of great use for the average reader. As a father, it was hard to take home specific suggestions based on the text without already knowing the theory. I would have liked to have seen the chapter on the effects of fathers on their children expanded, as this is really what matters most for fathers, researchers, and society in general. The mechanisms of fatherhood are important, but really, it's what fathers do for their children that matters most to most people.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are you ready to start a Ph.D. in the science of fatherhood? Jan. 8 2011
By Emre Sevinc - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm an expectant father and read this book hoping to learn more about what it means to be a father. This is definitely not one of the popular books which assumes the role of an experienced teacher / coach and tell you how to be a good father, what to care about, how to raise your child, how to support your wife etc. So if you are looking for friendly advice with occasional humor, lots of personal anecdotes with medical advice scattered in between you'd better look at other popular books (such as The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be (New Father Series)). However if you are interested in what exists (in contrast to what should) in the world of fatherhood, then this is probably the best resource as of now. The authors describe many aspects related to fatherhood and they provide lots of examples and data from various cultures as well as from our genetic relatives such as orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos and birds. You'll find many scientific explanations of what fathers in various cultures do, and why they do it, especially in terms of evolutionary mechanisms. I'm glad that the authors did not fail to strike a good balance between scientific writing and popular one; they did not assume that I was an expert in anthropology or fatherhood studies but nevertheless expected attention and careful reading from me (which I happily did for most of the chapters). Personally I found the last few chapters very informative in which they talk about how caring for his baby changes the brain of a father, affects the hormonal system and creates both benefits and risks for health. Therein lies some important insights for the curious reader / father, especially related to cross-cultural variations in short-term and long-term affects of fatherhood. I think this book will be an important reference in my library to which I'll return as I grow old as a father. (And it already started to help me understand the behaviors of some fathers that I observe in my social circle which I find to be another positive point for the book.)
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! April 20 2010
By Theodore S. Ransaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Fatherhood: Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior is one of the best books of its type that I have read so far. It is really impressive how much time the authors put into making it as easy to read as it is academic. I especially liked the fact that fathering elements of culture were interwoven throughout. I am considering adopting it as a class textbook for the Afro American Masculinity course I teach. This book is a must read for fathers, those who want to be fathers and anyone else who wants to know more about the untold story/journey of being a father.
4.0 out of 5 stars Fatherhood considered Feb. 13 2014
By christopher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An evolutionary anthropological approach to the subject of fatherhood. Being clearly written and structured it is easily accessible to the lay reader. On the basis of many referenced studies in the fields of anthropology, sociology along with certain primatological, biological and neuroscientific studies many interesting conclusions are cautiously drawn, the cross-cultural comparisons being especially interesting and useful . There is, however, in my view not much consideration given to the influence of the father on the mental and spiritual development of the younger child, for this one would seemingly have to consult other works. Aspects of the marriage relationship and the role of stepfathers are extensively discussed, matters of child abuse/incest less so (although concerning this, it is shown that stepfathers are, relative to biological fathers, a risk factor). The book ends with a discussion of recent Western cultural developments, leaving it to the reader to decide on the basis of what he has read how positive this all is.

For further discussion and a summary of the book's content per chapter, please see the book review in 'Evolutionary Psychology' from 2010.
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