There’s an old theory that says first-born babies were genetically predispositioned to look more like their father. It was believed this was so the father accepted the child was his and would provide and care for them. There’s also another theory that says it was so he didn’t eat the baby…
These theories obviously date way, way back, long before paternity tests existed (or cannibalism was frowned upon).
But even today, all new parents can’t help but look at their baby and wonder, who does it look like? It’s often one of the first things people will comment on when they meet a little one for the first time.
But is there actually any truth to the theory at all?
A 1995 study from the University of California sought to prove the theory by matching photos of 1-year-old children with pictures of their father. The study asked 122 participants to match photos of children at 1-year, 10-years and 20-years with photos of both their mothers and fathers. In infants, just under 50% guessed correctly for the fathers, as opposed to around 37% for the mothers. The success rates decreased significantly in 10-year-olds and rose slightly again in 20-year-olds.
A similar study in 2004 with a much larger sample size found that, in fact, most infants resemble both parents equally.
In concluding the study, co-author and psychologist at the University of Padova in Italy Paola Bressan noted that to the best of her knowledge, “no study has either replicated or supported” the findings from the 1995 study that stated babies resemble their fathers.
But even though the science isn’t there to back up the theory, why do so many of us say it rings true, that firstborns do tend to look more like their father?
Well, it’s probably because most of us are going off personal experience. But then the problem with that is, resemblances are highly subjective.
Whereas one person might look at a baby as a “spitting image” of either their mother or father, another person might not see any resemblance at all. This means you’ve really got to feel for those babies and mothers back in the caveman days when that’s all they had to go off.
These days we know that children share 50% of their parent’s DNA, and there are dominant genes and recessive genes – which leaves rather a lot of room for variation. Yep, the cavemen definitely didn’t get this memo either.
Add to this the fact that babies grow and change so much in the first year and every year after that. Some will start out with the spitting image of one parent, but as they grow they end up looking much more like the other.
It also begs the question, is a father who is excited about having a child more likely to see himself in his baby than one who is nervous/anxious/not wanting it? Or will a striking resemblance shock even the most detached father into bonding with his child?
Whilst the jury is still out on proving this theory as a hard fact, based on your family does this ring true for you? Did your first-born look more like you or your partner at birth? And what about as they’ve grown up has it changed?