My dad and I, we look alike. In fact, we look a lot like, which is perfectly normal, considering he’s one half of my reason for existence. But for those kids who don’t necessarily look much like their fathers, it might explain why some of those relationships aren’t as close.
New research co-conducted by faculty at Binghamton University and State University of New York — as reported by Science Daily — found that infants living with single mothers who resemble their father at birth are more likely to spend time together with their father and, in turn, be healthier when they reach their first birthday.
“As we say in the paper, ‘Evolutionary theory predicts parents will provide preferential care to genetically related children to advance their genetic success,’” says Solomon Polacheck, co-author of the study and a professor at Binghamton University. “Doubtful males can use this resemblance as a cue of genetic relatedness … in lieu of relatively costly paternity testing.”
As for how that factors into healthier kids, Polacheck says that those fathers who believed the kid looked like them were more dedicated fathers, spending, as per this piece in USA Today, “an average of 2.5 more days per month with their babies than those who didn’t resemble their offspring.” “This extra time translates to more care-giving, more supervision and more information-gathering about child health and economic needs,” says Polachek.
Polachek continues that the study came about because he was interested in understanding the vulnerability of single-headed households. “Our original motivation was to help understand, and thus, help make recommendations to alleviate poverty among a very vulnerable group within our society,” explains Polachek. “As is well-known, income inequality in the U.S. (and elsewhere) has widened substantially. Also, as is well-known, single-headed households tend to be at the bottom of the distribution. Children in these households are particularly susceptible.”
Statistically-speaking, in 2016, The National Women’s Law Center reported on a census from that same year that indicated that one in three single-mother families lived in poverty in 2015, and that over half of all poor children (56.2 percent) lived in families headed by women. While the solution for all of this is far more complicated than a father spending a little more time with his kid, at least understanding the factors that might affect the situation further is a start.
In the meantime, don’t expect any similar studies on babies who look like their moms. “Mothers know that babies born to them are theirs,” Polachek explains. “For them, there’s no issue of maternity — whether or not the baby looks like them.”
Which makes sense: They’re moms, and they love you no matter how much you look like that bum who never pays child support.