I come from a fatherless home. In fact, when I look around me, most of the people I see are fatherless blacks, young and old. So, it came as a great surprise when I ran across a Northwestern University study at nytimes.com that suggested men are prone to natural, dramatic decreases in testosterone after they become parents, making them more likely to “slow down” and focus on their relationship and children.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone that stimulates secondary sexual characteristics in men (for example, deepening of the voice), accelerates growth, and affects metabolism.
If the results of the study are true, the effect the findings suggest appears to have been lost on the African American community. Boasting a rate of 72% for single parent homes (according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), it makes you wonder what forces are there in our communal interaction that trump even biology. No disrespect, but my dad’s testosterone did nothing for his focus and affection. He simply kept it moving … and now that’s more the rule than the exception.
The study does make clear that the “more he gets involved in caring for his children, ” the lower his testosterone drops. And maybe that’s the answer. The drop may not be steep enough initially to make black men stay and create the initial family structure. The further they move away from that prospect, it lessens the would-be impact of the testosterone level decrease.
It was probably inconceivable in days gone by that family would at some point become obsolete. But that’s either where we’re rapidly headed or have already arrived. A large part of our community appears to be influenced by pop culture, which now glorifies “wild and free.” We’re still making babies, but they’re more the other end of the stick from pure lust and pleasure. So, it’s easy to sweep them to the side and let them get raised in “by the way” fashion.
“Young black men, and now even some women, are not really family oriented anymore,” said Terry Smith, an at risk youth counselor. “They do still relate as boyfriend and girlfriend, but that’s becoming more just a means to expressing sexuality than some plan to marry and recreate for the sake of raising a productive member of society, etc. What they listen to and what they see doesn’t set the stage for that.”
In short, the commercialization of the ugly parts of our community seems to be killing us. The debase music may be cases of individuals turning their reality into art and television, in the form of reality shows, does showcase real parts of how we interact, but commercialization leads to glorification and add impressionable minds in that equation and voila, we have instant – bad – role models. It’s the same old song, but still a critical issue that needs to be addressed.
“The real take-home message,” said Peter Ellison, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard who was not involved in the study, is that “male parental care is important. It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men.”
“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.”
The question becomes how do we get this message out to AFRICAN American males, packaged in such a way that will sway or interest them? How do we find voices that are louder than those of the machine that is now their pied piper? Leave a comment.