Proof That Fatherhood Can Change a Man

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This week, Prince William revealed how fatherhood has already changed his life.

More on Shine: How Fatherhood Changes Real Guys

“The last few weeks for me have been a very different emotional experience, something I never thought I would feel myself,” he said in a candid interview with CNN. “And I find, again it's only been a short period, but a lot of things affect me differently now.”

It was a notable moment. A father—and a royal one at that—had shared his feelings about the intensity of being a nurturer and gone far beyond the chest-thumping, bread-winning trope that dads are so often associated with. Prince William made it manly to be reduced to a pile of mush for your baby. And that was surprisingly refreshing.

More on Yahoo!: Diaper Duty: Prince William Tells of Fatherhood

“Most men are taught to win, and to achieve, not to become involved dads,” Dana Glazer, the documentary filmmaker behind “The Evolution of Dad,” which explores the changing role of fatherhood, explained to Yahoo! Shine. “Fatherhood is still so de-emphasized in our culture, and that’s on both sides of the pond. So men don’t think of this stuff beforehand, and then it hits them. And then, if you are lucky enough to spend a lot of time with your child, it’s an awakening. And it’s life changing.”

And it’s no coincidence. As Glazer points out, “There are actual physiological changes that occur in new dads.” A few recent studies have shown that fathers experience a simultaneous drop in testosterone and rise in prolactin, a hormone linked to sexual satisfaction and relaxation.

“Male parental care is important. It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men,” Peter Ellison, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, told the New York Times when summing up the take-home message of one of the studies, in 2011.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “I think American males have been brainwashed” to believe lower testosterone means that “maybe you’re a wimp, that it’s because you’re not really a man. My hope would be that this kind of research has an impact on the American male. It would make them realize that we’re meant to be active fathers and participate in the care of our offspring.”

Other studies have linked fatherhood with various positive changes in men’s behaviors. Research from 2010 found that when a father was more involved with his kids, he had better health and used alcohol and substances less than those who were not fathers or not involved. Still other findings have shown that fatherhood can make men less self-centered, more generous, more risk-averse and more mature.

Basically, as seems to be the case with Prince William, fatherhood can be a time when men finally come into their own. Which makes a lot of sense, according to Scott Coltrane, a sociology professor with expertise in the study of fatherhood.

“Because cultural scripts call for men to be strong, rational and in control, becoming a father provides men with rare opportunities to serve others, show vulnerability, express unconditional love, and be downright silly,” Coltrane, also dean of the University of Oregon’s College of Arts and Sciences, told Yahoo! Shine by email. “Around other men and with women, even their wives, men are often guarded and afraid of losing face. Loving and caring for their children allows men to let down, be playful, and show a softer side of themselves.”

He added, “Fatherhood is one of the few socially acceptable ways for men to build emotional skills and expand their expressive capacities. It is a pathway to becoming a mature nurturing adult, referred to by psychologists as the generative stage.”

The Duke of Cambridge, luckily, hasn’t been the only famous example of dads who appear to be involved and emotionally invested with their little ones. Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman and Ben Affleck are regularly photographed in the thick of it, and credited for sharing the work of parenting. And sometimes they even open up about how it feels.

“I remember my daughter Deni coming along, and she was so pure and caring of everybody and everything,” Woody Harrelson told Esquire in 2008. “And somehow, this little being managed to get around all the obstacles—the gun turrets, the walls, the moats, the sentries—that were wrapped around my heart. My heart at that time needed her.”

Basically, kids get in if you let them, male or female, famous or obscure.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a prince or a pauper,” noted Glazer. “If you’re a new dad and very involved with your child, you’re going to have these experiences.”

Related:
Royal Baby, Prince George, Stars in Two New Family Portraits
Prince William Talks Fatherhood at First Public Appearance
Prince George Is Officially on the Record