How babies can make men nicer people

I was recently asked a question by a father whether he should take his three year old daughter into a male changing room. I said that he should, but his question got me thinking about how the presence of children can actually improve men's behaviour.

Most men are not monsters and if you take a three year old girl into a male changing room, Men will behave appropriately. My advice was to say loudly when going in “alright guys - I’m bringing my daughter in” to give everyone a heads up. However the presence of children amongst a group of men in my experience changes the dynamic and atmosphere for the better.

It is interesting that even pictures of young children actually improves the behaviour of most men. In Woolwich, in London after the recent riots, shop owners have started painting the faces of babies on the shutters of their shops. The idea was that the sight of young children subconsciously encourages less violence and promotes better behaviour. Local mobile phone shop owner Zaphir Awan said "It's been here about three weeks now, most passers-by who see him smile. I wish we could keep the shutters down and open the shop at the same time. That would be ideal."

London shops with paintings of babies on the shutters Image Evening Standard

This belief that men behave better when children are around is not just a gut feeling, there is some real science behind it. According to the Fatherhood Institute, the act of caring for babies renders men more nurturing, and is correlated with raised levels of hormones associated with tolerance and trust called oxytocin. Other hormones released are called cortisol which encourages sensitivity to infants and prolactin which promotes bonding. Among males, physiological changes can occur with 15 minutes of holding a baby; and the more experienced a male is as a caregiver, the more pronounced are the changes.

So when children are around men and men are acting in a caring role, it does have positive effects. I've been really impressed by the charity MenCare . They are an international campaign that believe that society can be transformed by the involvement of men in the caregiving of children. We don't keep children safer by segregating them from men but by the opposite, by involving men more in their caregiving. Amazingly the benefits of men becoming more involved with the caring of children does not just effect men and their children but improves the lives of women too, by reducing domestic violence and improving relationships.