New fathers may feel more attractive after the birth of their child

To date, researchers have primarily focused on exploring women’s experiences of physical changes during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Gender Studies explored how childbearing affects both women’s and men’s experiences of their bodies. The findings indicate that new mothers perceived their attractiveness to decrease after childbirth, whereas men perceived themselves as more attractive in the months after they became new fathers.

The results of this study are drawn from a larger study exploring newlyweds’ relationship dynamics during the first two years of their marriage. Alicia Cast, Associate Professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, and her colleagues collected data from 182 newlywed, heterosexual couples at three time-points – the beginning of their marriage, and their first and second anniversaries. Participants were interviewed, wrote diary entries about their experiences, and completed self-report measures – one of which centered on perceived attractiveness.

The results suggest that new fathers feel more attractive and sexy after the birth of their child. Interestingly, this effect was only temporary with men’s perceived attractiveness lowering to baseline levels within a year. At this time, Cast and her colleagues are only able to speculate why men’s perceptions of their attractiveness might have a tendency to increase when they become dads. Says Cast,

I was talking about this paper with my husband and he commented on the attention he got when he was seen in public holding our son after he was born. Like, ‘Aren’t you a good dad,’ ‘Look at that new dad with his baby,’…Women get that feedback, too, because everybody loves a new baby. But that (benefit) may be countered by other things she’s experiencing that he’s not, in terms of how her body has changed and being more physically tired.”

In addition, Cast also notes that for men, becoming a father has long been socially construed as a sign of masculinity – which might also account for this increase in new dads’ perceptions of their attractiveness. Additional research is needed to further understand the complex relationship between new fatherhood and an enhanced sense of attractiveness for men.

To read the study abstract, click here.


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