Like father, like son?

From the start, most people have said that Pip most resembles Mr Cath rather than me. There are exceptions: for example, my parents think he looks like me as a baby. And one friend who shall remain nameless recently commented that Pip looked like his father when he was born, but he is looking more and more like me “now that his cheeks are filling out a bit”. Um, cheers.

The funny thing is, it’s not just Pip, and certainly not just boys. Most babies really seem to look like their Dads. But why? Babies’ genes are split 50/50 so they should look like both their parents equally… but my experience and that of other people appears to suggest that this isn’t the case.

There are a few credible-ish theories as to why this might be:

1. Cavemen


One reason why babies look like their fathers could have its roots in evolution. To reassure the father that the baby is his own offspring, and therefore not a threat, this particular resemblance developed. As in the animal kingdom, it also discouraged the man from eating his young… possibly. The instinct to hunt and gather would also be stronger when one is providing for one’s own child.

2. A mother’s honour

jeremy kyle

As a generally monogamous species, especially where women have been concerned, seeing what the baby looks like was a straightforward way of assuring the father that his partner had not been unfaithful. Now we are in the era of Jeremy Kyle, paternity tests proving this once and for all have become relatively commonplace. However, if you don’t fancy shelling out for a test or embarrassing yourself on television then looking at the baby could be a suitable alternative.

3. It’s nice for him (my favourite)

The baby’s mother has gone through nine months of pregnancy, followed by labour and birth. The result is unequivocally hers, and continues to be so as her breasts begin to produce milk designed especially for that particular baby. When the baby looks like the father this is an obvious but effective way of including him in the threesome!

The Science Bit

An interesting article in the Scientific American discusses this topic. They cite a 1995 Nature study that appears to confirm a dominant paternal resemblance, via a survey of people matching photos of one-year-old babies with pictures of their parents (more chose the fathers than the mothers). However, subsequent and further-reaching research projects have found evidence to contradict this; for example, a co-author of a 2004 study concludes that “some babies resemble their father more, some babies resemble their mother more, and most babies resemble both parents to about the same extent.”

Other studies have found the OPPOSITE appears to be the case, i.e. babies resemble their mothers more than their fathers! This can also be explained by evolutionary developments: even if the child is not his, the father will still want to provide for it, as the lack of paternal similarities means no-one could ever be really sure. However, according to the research, the mother is just as adamant that the baby looks like the father even when general opinion suggests otherwise: this could also contribute to the man’s sense of fatherhood and responsibility (and see “It’s nice for him” above!)

Either way, it’s all pretty vague, and most babies just look like babies really: you can’t even tell whether they are a boy or a girl most of the time! And you hear cases about adopted babies and children growing to look just like their parents so everyone assumes they are the natural parents. Often it’s probably a case of you see what you want to see… Nevertheless, it is really fun trying to spot different features, and at least Pip definitely doesn’t look like our postman!


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