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Male Role Models Lack the Oxytocin Factor

Over on chicagoboyz, Shannon Love talks  about the crummy role models male children have these days. Pointing to a growing gender imbalance at the university level, with 60 percent of graduating students being women, Love thinks the reason could be absent fathers.

In divorced or never-married families, women become the primary caregivers, and boys may spend years without a man to be close to. They're out of luck if they turn to the mass media for models, Love says.

The absence of masculine role models also leaves boys more susceptible to the popular culture's portrayal of masculinity, which, frankly, is crap. In popular culture, men are impulsive, childish and violent. In popular culture men do not think, plan or create. No boy raised on a steady diet of MTV and associated media ever comes away with the idea that long-term planning, self-restraint and self-sacrifice are important facets of masculine behavior.

Love goes on to say that no part of a child's life is improved by divorce or single parenting, when other variables are constant.  I assume Love means variables such as an abusive parent, etc.

At any rate, another way to understand Love's analysis of the popular presentation of manliness (and I agree with it) is that it's a testosterone-centric view. The media male is all about aggression, competition, preening and impulse.

It's only -- or maybe I should say, most likely -- within a family unit that the mitigating effects of oxytocin come into play. As Peter Gray and his colleagues have  shown, married men tend to have lower levels of testosterone than single guys, while a man's blood levels drop when he holds a baby. Testosterone mutes the bonding and calming effects of oxytocin.

Doubtless, cuddling and intimacy within the family does the same thing for boy children, helping them learn, at the biochemical level, how to create the biological states that allow restraint, planning and cooperation.

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