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Parenting: Genetic Difference between Mum and Dad

Unravelling the science behind parenting differences and their influence on nurturing abilities.

This topic lends itself to being the first blog post. As an ND (nursing daddy) I often find myself asking the question, why do I as an ND feel so much more exposed when nursing my kids than my NM (nursing mummy) wife?

Speaking to my fellow NDs, it seems NMs have it a lot easier than us NDs, or should it be that NMs are more natural at parenting than NDs. For example, a trip to the park requires a lot more planning for me than my wife who just ups and goes, a night shift with the kids requires that all the bottles/powder are prepped to ensure a smooth night, my inability to change my son’s first point of comfort from mum to dad, my wife’s energy-saving ability of lighting up a dark room just by coming in and the kids responding with a bright smile – enough to light up the room as well – and finally, my genetic defect of not having a breast which can be whipped out at a moment’s notice and can resolve 99.9% of parenting issues with babies.

Science tells me that mum and dad are something like 95% the same in terms of their biology, with the other 5% accounting for major differences in how we get socialised. Can this 5% also account for parenting? The differences that normally exist between mum and dad in life (parenting) are often put down to certain physical and mental distinctions.

Are these differences caused by evolution, nature, environment or developed in the womb? I decided to spend some time looking more into the physical and mental sides of mums and dads to gain some insight on the topic:

Anatomical Differences

  • Mum has a smaller body than dad
  • Dad has narrower hips and wider shoulders than mum
  • Mum’s muscular volume is less than that of Dad’s


  • Dad has a higher pain threshold than mum; however during labour mum’s pain threshold supersedes dad’s by astronomical amounts

Physiological Differences

  • Mum has a 20% smaller heart than dad
  • Dad has 40% more blood volume in the body than mum
  • Mum has 11% fewer red blood cells in the body than dad
  • Dad’s ability to consume oxygen is 17% more than mum

Psychological Development

  • Mum is much more dependent on personal care than dad
  • Mum is much easier to motivate than dad
  • Mum loses her fear of losing faster and will hope for success more quickly  than dad
  • Mum is more easily motivated by her own achievements than dad
  • Mum’s emotional patterns vary according to her menstrual cycle
  • Mum is emotionally more advanced than dad
  • Mum is also more sensitive than dad


  • Mum and dad do not differ in general intelligence
  • Dad is interested in general insight into underlying structure, whilst mum pays more attention to detail
  • Mum is better at empathising whereas dad is better at systemising
  • Dad is better on the mental rotation test and spatial navigation. Mum is better at tests of emotion recognition, social sensitivity and verbal fluency
  • Mum focuses on personal life, whilst dad focus more on status and achievement
  • Dad will often take more risks than mum
  • The most telling is that mum is interested in people whereas dad is more interested in systems

It appears from the above findings that NMs are a perfected version of us NDs. I mean, NDs have all the strengths from the anatomical point of view and all the benefits of having a bigger heart, more oxygen, and more blood (this would explain why I lose my temper more than my wife – hot blooded), but then NMs have the ability to deal with the finer things and exercise control.

When I discovered that NDs can handle more pain than NMs, I thought, I will have ammunition against my wife when she next refers to my heavy cold flus as simply ‘man flu’. But an NM’s pain threshold increases at the moment when she should be on the ropes. It is very clear from the above that my wife NM has a huge emotional ability. NMs have exceptional flexibility and co-ordination and more enthusiasm, thoroughness and patience than NDs. As an ND I guess I am locked in my hunter-gatherer nature, and it is this nature that exposes me often when I am nursing my kids.

Evolution has played its part, but I think the biggest difference in terms of ease of parenting is in our genetic makeup, our DNA!

Check out the associated Infographics and Video connected to this blog post ‘Parenting: Genetic Difference between Mum and Dad’


  • Baron-Cohen, S, The Extreme Male Brain Theory of Autism, 2002
  • Baron-Cohen, S, Sex Differences in the Brain: Implications for Explaining Autism, 2005
  • Boureau, Y-Lan, Developmental Mechanisms leading to Cognitive Disparities between Men and Women, 2005
  • Metevier, Dan, The Top 10 Differences between Men and Women, 2009
  • Pease, Allan & Barbara, Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps, 2011
  • Pinker, S, The Science of Gender and Science, 2005
  • Stander, Richard, Athletics Omnibus: Differences between Men and Women, South Africa, 2008


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