When a man and woman have a child their life completely changes, however, not all of the changes involve building on to the house and purchasing a crib. After having a child a woman’s amygdala (the part of the brain that processes emotion) becomes more active. The man’s brain also adapts and the parts of the brain associated with cognitive function become more active. This isn’t news. In fact, this biological adaption is sometimes cited by opponents of same-sex parenting as the reason why a child needs a mother and father.
But a new study from the National Academy of Sciences published on Memorial Day is blowing that theory out of the scientific waters. The study first looked at how the brains of straight women and straight men changed after they became parents. The pattern of changes they found matched what they expected to find in their hypothesis. However, the researchers then tested gay fathers’ brains. “The 48 gay fathers’ brain waves … responded similarly to both the heterosexual mom and dad,” TIME reported, “Their emotional circuits were as active as mothers’, and their cognitive circuits were as active as the fathers’. Researchers also found that the more time a gay father spent with the baby, the greater a connection there was between the emotional and cognitive structures.”
These changes aren’t actively controlled by the new parents. They’re biological tools we’ve developed over time to boost a child’s chance of survival. However, we now know that these changes aren’t rigidly linked to gender or sexual orientation. “Fathers’ brains are very plastic, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Bar-Ilan University, Ruth Feldman, told TIME, “When there are two fathers, their brains must recruit both networks, the emotional and cognitive, for optimal parenting.” This new research is exciting for gay parenting advocates because it suggests that gay dads can mentally provide for their children the same way an opposite-sex couple can.
Gay dads have been saying this for years and now the research agrees.