You’ve carried, laboured and birthed the baby and in those exhausting, emotional first moments, the nurse says, “The baby looks exactly like her father!” Say, what?!
The all-day nausea, the aching back, the swollen feet, the ugly bras, the lack of sleep and the fact that you peed yourself a few times when sneezing… and baby looks like him? There may be a very interesting reason behind this!
The mix of a baby’s genetics is a complex phenomenon based on geno-types, pheno-types and depending on which side of the family the resemblance is from, maybe even some weirdo-types!
Babies’ features often change, or whom they resemble, over their growing years, so is it all about genetics. But is there something behind the parenting folk law that most babies tend to look more like their fathers at birth?
Read more: Fatherhood – What Being a Dad Means To Me
Is it an evolutionary survival tactic?
One theory about this claims that babies look more like their fathers at birth, to provide somewhat of a natural paternity test. Back in our cave man days were neither marriage nor monogamy were practiced, fathers, unlike mothers, did not share the absolute certainty that the child was theirs. And without the Dr. Phil Show, they just didn’t know!
Seeing some resemblance in the child’s face increased the chances of the mother and baby being protected and provided for by the child’s father. And as with all evolutionary cycles with the fittest being the survivors, the genetics became to match this facial recognition more often.
The authors who came up with this theory did so after a social experiment in 1995 at the University of California. Here the researchers asked 122 people try to match pictures of children they didn’t know, with photos of their potential mothers and fathers.
The group members correctly paired over half of the infants with their fathers, seeing much more familiarity between the baby’s and their fathers, but their success rate was much lower with matching infants and mothers.
Is it a question of bonding and attachment?
A study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior in 2003, put forth the idea that a sense of instant bonding can occur upon facial recognition.
The researchers took close range photos of a group of subjects and then asked them to look at pictures of unknown children.
They did not tell the subjects that they had digitally morphed some of their own facial features with some of the faces of the children in the pictures.
When they presented the subjects with the faces of the children, the men in the study showed an increased attention and indicated that they would adopt or spend time with the babies, male or female, who had more of their own facial characteristics, without even knowing why.
Interestingly, the women in the study showed no preference or bias for only children displaying similar features to them, but broadly accepted them.
A simple theory of inclusion:
Do people tend to comment more about the similarities between the baby and the father to make him feel more included? After all, for 9 months the bond between mother and baby is well established, now how can dad be included?
Mother-in-law have your husbands baby pictures out making a collage of similarities between the baby and him? Well it seems that she may not be the only one telling a little white lie to make daddy feel more included.
A Canadian study tested the theory of sympathetic inclusion by asking 160 couples with newborns to answer a question: Which parent the baby resembled most?
They asked 60 couples together and 100 mothers alone. When asked which parent their infant resembled, mothers with the father present replied 87.5% of the time, that the baby looked like the father–but when the father was not in the room the paternal resemblance frequency suddenly dropped to only 60.0%!
Naww, things we do for love!
Whether the theories above hold true or not, or if baby looks like daddy or mummy, it is amazing to think that our bodies masterminded a genetic blueprint of two halves and produced a perfect little thing in the end.
And for those of you wondering, yes… my baby looks exactly like her father down to the lopsided smirk I love so much!