Male Monkeys May Be More Nurturing
Women are more nurturing?
They may be. But culture—not biology — may well be the cause.
Might our primate cousins shed some light on this nature-nurture debate?
When it comes to primates, which sex is more nurturing depends on culture, not hormones says University of Toronto anthropologist Frances Burton: hormones are the same throughout the species yet there is no universal pattern to how different tasks are divided, including infant care.
Males may intimately nurture infants. Or they may be hands-off, doing little to no parenting. It depends on the troop.
In some troops of macaque monkeys the males groom, carry and protect infants. In one instance a male sniffed, licked, caressed, patted, and held an infant. He also chattered to it and encouraged the baby to walk. Younger males — and only males — imitated him. In fact, young females were kept away so that the young males could learn their role.
Interestingly, when an infant is born the members of it’s community are very interested in its sex, and make an effort to touch, hold, sniff or lick the genitalia.
So it could be that once a newborn’s sex is determined, it is steered toward a particular social role.
But there is more evidence that primate females are not the naturally nurturing sex.
And among rhesus monkeys, prenatal testosterone levels seem to have no affect on interest in infants.
When a male’s androgen receptor was blocked it was no more interested in infants than other males. And when a female was exposed to higher levels of testosterone in utero, she was no less interested in infants than other females.
But here’s something interesting: despite this evidence, the researchers were reluctant to dismiss prenatal hormonal influences. Which looks like research bias.
The evidence goes against conventional wisdom — and a stereotype that favors men.
If women are the natural nurturers, they should stay home with children. And out of arenas that would bring money, power and status.
Source: Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender.