Why do men cower away from being more involved with their kids? I wonder if men were socialized to take care of children like girls would they be better parents?
I would call these gross over-generalizations. While there no doubt are men who are distant in their relationships with their children, there are also women who share that dynamic.
I personally don't know any men who don't take an active role in raising and nurturing their children, and know a few who are far more involved than the mothers. I haven't looked at hard statistics, but I'd wager that with the deterioration of the traditional family structure, and the increase of dual income households and homes with working mothers and stay-at-home fathers, that the distant or irresponsible father is more of the exception than the rule. I'd also wager that the stats are probably fairly similar for both sexes.
For what it's worth, I grew up in a household where both parents worked, but my mother was the nurturer, and my father was the aloof disciplinarian. However, it's not something I see with regards to friends and other parts of the family. The general attitude among my friends is that my mom was great, and my dad was a complete dick.
I think every type (however you want to group humanity) follows a bell curve. Most people fall somewhere in the middle in what I'd term a positive-if-flawed category. To one side would be the "stars", and to the other side the "scumbags". It sounds like we had the misfortune of finding ourselves with fathers from the back side of the bell curve.
I think you'd have to apply specific criteria against a specific method of parenting. I'm guessing it would involve a lot of trade offs depending upon what criteria are valued more. For example, a parent who is more focused on teaching his/her child the skill sets that they will need to thrive in a climate/culture that is highly competative would be less concerned with physical comforts or a general "happiness". I suppose it would be especially true if violence was part of the climate/culture.
I think there are a lot of moving parts to the analysis, not just between cultures, but with the subcultures within greater cultures, and with both paternal and maternal roles.
It's an interesting topic. If I get some time this weekend, I'll see if I can dig up statistics regarding parental involvement, and paternal vs. maternal parenting methods.
My ex and I got divorced when our three boys were 4,5, and 8. I had to fight to get 50% custody. There was a strong bias that men didn't want to and couldn't be a good parent. After few years my ex moved 800 miles away. I've raised the kids on my own for about the last 15 years. I learned a lot about how to be a parent/dad 'on-the-job'. For about the first 10 years, I didn't have my own life. My time was spent 100% taking care of the kids. I always tried to do what was best for them. And along the way I tried to teach them to be thoughtful, courteous, honest, and of course skeptical. They are all through college now and there is only one left at home. I can start to breath again.
I think that a lot of men avoid child rearing for the same reason that a lot of girls avoid learning math and science. They think that it's going to be difficult so they don't even try.
Its interesting but I believe your observation and your interpretation might be a little exaggerated. You cannot discount the role men play although its more obvious that women do take a lot of interest in raising their child, my experience in Ghana although I am not a father is that the roles are unconsciously allocated to both parents. women tend to take of every other thing whiles mostly the disciplinary aspect is left to the father. Fathers are seen to be the one that shape the moral character of the children.
By nature, I'm automatically skeptical of what people consider is "normal", but you might be interested in a fairly recent study (several pages).
Hard to say. The earliest bonding experiences tend to lean toward women. Most mothers will have carried their child to term in their own bodies, and typically mothers take maternity leave, or at least the first chunk of it when two parents split leave.
The first part is biological. Even if a dad is very close to his pregnant wife, unless he works with her, he's not with the baby during work hours. I also doubt the male experience can really match the intimacy of the direct biological connection mother and foetus share.
With early childcare leave, there are a few reasons why maternity leave is probably favoured over paternity. Mothers will take some time to recuperate after delivery. Breastfeeding encourages the mother being physically close to the newborn. Gender-correlated wage disparity makes it more likely that the man makes more money than the woman, so men will be less likely to take time off from work unless they don't see a pay cut.
Obviously there are a lot of variations in those scenarios which present exceptions to every last case, but on balance, that seems to be the trend overall. I don't offer it as an explanation of why many men are more distant as parents than their female counterparts, but I do think there are some conditions which favour women having a stronger bonding experience from the start. Some of those conditions are becoming decreasingly relevant though. From the parents I know in my personal life, both parents, if they are around, are very deeply invested in parenting and spending time engaging with their children. It would be impossible for me to judge if there was a gender-based discrepancy in just how invested these parents are.
"Do men need to be taught HOW to be fathers or do they just not care as much as women?"
I bring a different perspective to the table on this topic. I believe the Feminist opinion...which is pretty much across the board as far as I can see...that men are the "designated problem." I have five children who were stolen from me by my ex-wife with the full cooperation of Child Protective Services. I think that what has happened over the last fifty years is a growing problem within social services in which women have been elevated to a status of always the victim, never the perpetrator and men have become always the perpetrator and never the victim.
We have men portrayed on TV and in movies in a manner that does not reflect the reality of the situation. I remember reading one Feminist who said plainly: "I had to quit counseling the men in an abusive situation because the more I knew these men as real people the less I was able to feel the anger of the woman."
In other words, she choose to blank out the men in the situation because if she continued to try and help the 'whole family' including the men the less anger she could feel toward the man.
I see this as a problem with Feminism, not as a problem with men specific and certainly not as a problem of the family as a whole.
Men are simply discriminated against by the social welfare system and the psychological profession.
My experience was more like Belle's. It seems to me that few men took an active participation in parenting other than some ass kicking. That was the 60's and 70's. That generation of mostly war vets seemed to work hard, party harder (minus the wife and kids) and die young. I recall having to ask my mother to see if I could even address my father and she would often say "not now".
I read somewhere that men are more successful single parents than women. Partly because they are less likely to be poor, but perhaps more importantly because men are less likely to fall into the guilt trap that has many single mothers wanting be friends with their kids rather than parents. Men apparently tend to be more able to demand and enforce discipline in many situations.