Dismissive-Avoidants as Parents

Darth Vader - Dismissive Dad

Darth Vader – Dismissive Dad

Avoidants tend to be unresponsive to partner needs and unconcerned with the negative effect their lack of supportive communication has on their partners. How much does this lack of caring extend to their care for children? If you are married with children, you may have observed moments of caring interaction with them, but not as often as perhaps might be appropriate; and studies have shown that the typical avoidant is a somewhat negligent, emotionally distant parent:

Edelstein et al. (2004) videotaped children’s and parents’ behavior when each of the children received an inoculation at an immunization clinic, and found that more avoidant parents (assessed with a self-report scale) were less responsive to their children, particularly if the children became highly distressed; that is, when the children were most upset and most in need of parental support, avoidant parents failed to provide effective care.[1]

The dynamics that make the Dismissive/Anxious-Preoccupied partnership so unsatisfying are repeated with children who try to get more attention from an avoidant parent. A child either learns not to expect emotional support (thus growing more avoidant themselves) or falls into the trap of requesting more and being brutally rebuffed by a parent who sees their needs as weaknesses to be despised:

As expected, avoidant individuals exhibited a neglectful, nonresponsive style of caregiving: They scored relatively low on proximity maintenance and sensitivity, reflecting their tendency to maintain distance from a needy partner (restricting accessibility, physical contact, and sensitivity), and tended to adopt a controlling, uncooperative stance resembling their domineering behavior in other kinds of social interactions….[2]

Over time, children with an avoidant parent will look to their other parent for support. If the other parent is a sensitive caregiver, the child will model future attachment styles on that parent; but if the other parent is, for example, anxious-preoccupied, the child will more likely end up with some variety of insecure attachment type. Between the Scylla of the coldhearted dismissive and the Charybdis of the clingy, preoccupied parent, the child will not have a healthy model to work with.

If your partner is avoidant and you have had or intend to have children, it is especially important that you provide a good model of caregiving: there when needed, and only when needed; calm, cheerful, responsive, but not hovering. Consider carefully (if it’s not too late) how you might encourage your avoidant to handle your children’s needs with more attention and care; and if you are considering bringing up children in the critical years from birth to age 2, whether it might be wise to wait until either your partner has learned to be more supportive or you have found a better partner. Because a steady parent’s love and attention is so important to the emotional health of children, if you find you can’t be the steady one to give your children a good model because you yourself are off-balance from your avoidant partner’s lack of support, do what you have to do to make the environment better. It’s not just your current suffering that you should worry about—your children may suffer a lifetime of attachment dysfunction as well.

Here’s a report from a mother who has just about had it with both her husband and her dad, who show the same dismissive pattern:

My son was crying last night as he talked about how he could not ever talk to his dad about anything. I very much relate and I have great compassion for him. I want to be stronger for HIM.

This morning I went to the gym and there was some show about weddings. The fathers were walking the daughter down the aisle, so proud. Then the other day I saw an ad about graduation…again, the fathers were so proud standing right next to their daughters.

It hurts very badly. I recall inviting my dad to my college graduation and he said he had to work. He doesn’t care that I was with an abusive man in my marriage. Instead he speaks so highly of him, how he is the father of his grandchildren (who he can’t stand and had nothing nice to say about)…

Once when we were visiting, my son (then 10) had a febrile seizure. I told my dad I was taking him to the doctor. My dad criticized me for overreacting. When my older son had a seizure at 5 years old from a high fever, my stepmom acted like I overreacted when I took him to the ER.[3]

And this adult survivor of dismissive parenting talks about how it felt:

My father is passive abusive. His emotional abuse is very covert. Mostly he just doesn’t care, doesn’t listen when I talk to him, doesn’t know anything about me, my life or my kids because he doesn’t care to know and he doesn’t listen to anyone who tries to tell him. To the general public, (and according to my siblings) my father is regarded as this ‘nice’ guy and he is never violent, never mean and never hurtful with his words, but the truth is that his relationship style is dismissive and disinterested all of which is very hurtful. I spent many years in childhood and in adulthood ‘begging’ (in all kinds of ways) my emotionally abusive father to notice me. The fact that he didn’t was and is very hurtful. There is a very loud message that is delivered to me when I am disregarded. The message is that I don’t matter, that I am not important, that I am not worth listening to and that I don’t have anything to contribute to his life. My father is emotionally unavailable, and that is very hurtful. Love is an action and love doesn’t damage self-esteem. Love doesn’t define a ‘loved one’ as insignificant.

After years of trying to tell my passive abusive father that his constant cutting me off whenever I tried to tell him about me, and that his lack of interest in my life was a problem for me ~ and due to the fact that there wasn’t any change on his part, I gave up; I finally realized that he wasn’t going to change.[4]

[Note: if you arrived here looking for insight into a dismissive spouse or lover, this post is now a chapter in the book I’ve just published on the topic: Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner. Right now available from Amazon Kindle for $3.99, and a trade paperback is also available.]

More on Attachment and Personality Types:

What Attachment Type Are You?
Type: Secure
Type: Anxious-Preoccupied
Type: Dismissive-Avoidant
Type: Fearful-Avoidant (aka Anxious-Avoidant)
Avoidant: Emotions Repressed Beneath Conscious Level
Serial Monogamy: the Fearful-Avoidant Do It Faster
Anxious-Preoccupied: Stuck on the Dismissive?
Anxious-Preoccupied / Dismissive-Avoidant Couples: the Silent Treatment
Anxious-Preoccupied: Clingy and Insecure Relationship Example
Domestic Violence: Ray and Janay Rice
Malignant Narcissists
Teaching Narcissists to Activate Empathy
Histrionic Personality: Seductive, Dramatic, Theatrical
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
On Addiction and the Urge to Rescue
“Bad Boyfriends” for Kindle, $2.99
Controlling Your Inner Critic
“Big Bang Theory” — Aspergers and Emotional/Social Intelligence
Porn Addiction and NoFAP
Introverts in Management

[1] Mikulincer, Mario. Attachment in Adulthood: Structure, Dynamics, and Change. Kindle edition, loc. 8408. The Guilford Press, 2007.
[2] Mikulincer, Mario. Attachment in Adulthood: Structure, Dynamics, and Change. Kindle edition, loc. 8418. The Guilford Press, 2007.
[4] “Emotionally Unavailable Father; The Message of Passive Abuse :: Emerging From Broken.” Accessed September 21, 2014.

Evolve or Die: Survival Value of the Feminine Imperative

Women Against Feminism

Women Against Feminism

This blog is dedicated to finding the truth through science and reasoning. When we’re talking about social issues, the scientific method is hard to apply — most studies can’t have adequate controls and so all we can say is that results are “suggestive” — this correlates with that, and there are plausible reasons why that might be so, and maybe there’s some other evidence pointing in the same direction. It’s easy to get lost and build castles of inference on weak foundations of speculation.

Evolutionary Psychology as a field grew into prominence in the 1980s. Regularities in social and mating behavior noted across human cultures with no contact with each other were deemed likely to have roots in evolved traits; certain customs and behaviors might be more likely to result in survival of an individual’s offspring and with thus be selected for over time, in a particular environment, interacting with genetic programming and resulting in innate preferences. Differences with other species, primates especially, were studied, contrasts drawn, and the coevolution of innately programmed human behavior interacting with cultural memes was debated.

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley, is the best popular book on evolutionary psychology and sexual strategies from that era; though much more research has been done since it was published in 1994, it’s still a good introduction to the field:

Compared to our ape cousins, we, the most common of the great apes, have pulled off a surprising trick. We have somehow reinvented monogamy and paternal care without losing the habit of living in large multimale groups. Like gibbons, men marry women singly and help them to rear their young, confident of paternity, but like chimpanzees, those women live in societies where they have continual contact with other men. There is no parallel for this among apes. It is my contention, however, that there is a close parallel among birds. Many birds live in colonies but mate monogamously within the colony. And the bird parallel brings an altogether different explanation for females to be interested in sexual variety. A female human being does not have to share her sexual favors with many males to prevent infanticide, but she may have a good reason to share them with one well-chosen male apart from her husband. This is because her husband is, almost by definition, usually not the best male there is—else how would he have ended up married to her? His value is that he is monogamous and will therefore not divide his child-rearing effort among several families. But why accept his genes? Why not have his parental care and some other male’s genes? In describing the human mating system; it is hard to be precise. People are immensely flexible in their habits, depending on their racial origin, religion, wealth, and ecology. Nonetheless, some universal features stand out. First, women most commonly seek monogamous marriage—even in societies that allow polygamy. Rare exceptions notwithstanding, they want to choose carefully and then, as long as he remains worthy, monopolize a man for life, gain his assistance in rearing the children, and perhaps even die with him. Second, women do not seek sexual variety per se. There are exceptions, of course, but fictional and real women regularly deny that nymphomania holds any attraction for them, and there is no reason to disbelieve them. The temptress interested in a one-night stand with a man whose name she does not know is a fantasy fed by male pornography. Lesbians, free of constraints imposed by male nature, do not suddenly indulge in sexual promiscuity; on the contrary, they are remarkably monogamous. None of this is surprising: Female animals gain little from sexual opportunism, for their reproductive ability is limited not by how many males they mate with but how long it takes to bear offspring. In this respect men and women are very different. But third, women are sometimes unfaithful. Not all adultery is caused by men. Though she may rarely or never be interested in casual sex with a male prostitute or a stranger, a woman, in life as in soap operas, is perfectly capable of accepting or provoking an offer of an affair with one man whom she knows, even if she is “happily” married at the time. This is a paradox. It can be resolved in one of three ways. We can blame adultery on men, asserting that the persuasive powers of seducers will always win some hearts, even the most reluctant. Call this the “Dangerous Liaisons” explanation. Or we can blame it on modern society and say that the frustrations and complexities of modern life, of unhappy marriages and so on, have upset the natural pattern and introduced an alien habit into human females. Call this the “Dallas” explanation. Or we can suggest that there is some valid biological reason for seeking sex outside marriage without abandoning the marriage—some instinct in women not to deny themselves the option of a sexual “plan B” when plan A does not work out so well. Call this the “Emma Bovary” strategy.

Yet Western people conspicuously avoid having as many children as they could. William Irons of Northwestern University in Chicago has tackled this problem. He believes that human beings have always taken into account the need to give a child a “good start in life.” They have never been prepared to sacrifice quality of children for quantity. Thus, when an expensive education became a prerequisite for success and prosperity, around the time of the demographic transition to low birthrates, people were able to readjust and lower the number of children they had in order to be able to afford to send them to school. Exactly this reason is given today by Thai people for why they are having fewer children than their parents. There has been no genetic change since we were hunter-gatherers, but deep in the mind of the modern man is a simple male hunter-gatherer rule: Strive to acquire power and use it to lure women who will bear heirs; strive to acquire wealth and use it to buy other men’s wives who will bear bastards. It began with a man who shared a piece of prized fish or honey with an attractive neighbor’s wife in exchange for a brief affair and continues with a pop star ushering a model into his Mercedes. From fish to Mercedes, the history is unbroken: via skins and beads, plows and cattle, swords and castles. Wealth and power are means to women; women are means to genetic eternity.

Likewise, deep in the mind of a modern woman is the same basic hunter-gatherer calculator, too recently evolved to have changed much: Strive to acquire a provider husband who will invest food and care in your children; strive to find a lover who can give those children first-class genes. Only if she is very lucky will they be the same man. It began with a woman who married the best unmarried hunter in the tribe and had an affair with the best married hunter, thus ensuring her children a rich supply of meat. It continues with a rich tycoon’s wife bearing a baby that grows up to resemble her beefy bodyguard. Men are to be exploited as providers of parental care, wealth, and genes.

Now we know no human being is literally programmed to behave in a particular way; people make decisions based on a complex mix of rational calculation, emotional heuristics, cultural models, and innate preferences. But those innate preferences are a constant if usually unconscious influence, always pushing to promote the propagation of the individual’s genes. Men and women will tend to use their sex-specific strategies — often secretly, as when a woman mated to a less genetically-advantaged male has an affair with a more powerful older male to capture his apparently fitter genes for her offspring, or when men try to have additional offspring at other men’s expense by tomcatting around.

Feminism started as a cultural movement to question the narrow roles women were expected to fill in pre-industrial societies where the primary goal was survival — just getting the next generation born, fed, and brought up before disease, death, or warrior bands killed them. The new prosperity brought by the Industrial Age in the West brought a more sophisticated kind of striving: work became more cerebral than manual, lifespans lengthened, children survived more often but required greater investment in education, so family sizes shrank, and careers for women before and after childrearing years made more sense. Mass production and domestic labor-saving appliances made homemaking and domestic crafts less economically valuable and freed women to seek more resources for their families by working outside the home.

But after the revolution of Women’s Liberation (as we used to call it), the feminist movement, having achieved most of its goals in legal equality, respect, and professional opportunities, degenerated into a grievance bubble, a self-contained, exclusionary support group requiring villains and victims to propagate to a new generation. There are many women who can think for themselves and see that much of the effort of the modern feminist cult is reducing women to victims and demonizing masculinity and men; this reduces the number of strong, competent, and willing men a young woman might find to partner up with, and the spreading decline in marriage among millennials, especially in what used to be a robust population of blue-collar young men, is becoming obvious. Many women now notice the lack of successful, strong young men and don’t necessarily appreciate having to bear and raise children without a supportive father in the house.

Most women (and many fair-minded men) supported the goals of equity feminism — after all, it was a waste to have highly competent women kept out of the workplace when they could do more to support their families there than at home, or sentenced to church and charity work in between stints babysitting the grandkids. It was never fair to force young women to marry and have a family if they wanted to choose a different path, and there was no longer any survival imperative requiring every one of them to do so. But it’s still true that many young women — and young men — want children and a family, and where modern feminism has gone off track is where it denigrates this desire and pushes to cripple young men who are the other necessary ingredient needed to start a successful family.

Ciaran has this good piece up on Just Four Guys has “Women Against Feminism: Feminism Betrays the Feminine Imperative” on this awakening:

The Feminine Imperative

The feminine imperative, as I understand it, is the force bending the social order to the female mating goals: obtaining a high quality mate, followed by provision and protection for herself and her children. Since the feminine imperative deals with the essential task of propagating the species, it is of great importance, and all successful societies have accommodated it in one way or another. But all successful societies have also maintained a balance with the male imperative: to have sex with attractive, receptive females and to sire children with confident paternity. Despite its importance, the concept of “feminine imperative” has become laden with scorn because many men feel that the balance between these sometimes conflicting imperatives has become unacceptably tilted in favor of the feminine. Examples of the feminine imperative in action are legal policies that permit an unfaithful woman to cuckold her husband, compelling him to assume full financial responsibility for the child until adulthood with little legal recourse, or divorce laws that allow women to evict their husbands from their children’s lives, while forcing him to maintain the burden of provisioning through alimony and child support payments.

The Masculine Response

The elevation of the feminine imperative at the expense of men can be considered a type of defection in the cooperation between the sexes – women are availing themselves of the benefits provided by men while freeing themselves of the responsibilities those benefits used to entail. But mating is a game with repeated interactions, and one group’s exploitative tactics will eventually be countered by the other. In addition, market forces will result in a change in supply in result to the demands and incentives placed by one group upon the other. Together, these effects have produced a significant change in male behavior over the last few decades. Fewer men are getting married, and fewer men are participating in the workforce. A society that celebrates female achievement while disparaging male assertiveness has resulted in stagnant or falling achievement of boys and men in education and the workplace. Some men are consciously going their own way, while others follow that path either through an unconscious response to incentives or through a lack of opportunity.

The consequences of these changes is that young women are finding that good husbands are hard to find. And contrary to feminist dogma, this matters very much, because no one is capable or willing to provide as much support to a young mother as a good husband. He not only provides material support, he provides his labor, skills, and emotional support. And perhaps most important, he provides crucial parenting contributions that greatly improve his offspring’s chances of survival and success.

Feminism sought to serve the feminine imperative by increasing women’s choices for mates, and freeing women of dependence on men for protection and provisioning. But feminism has failed to replace the value of a good husband through innovations such alimony, child support, government assistance, and preferential treatment for women in education and the workplace. Meanwhile, these same social innovations have greatly reduced the supply of good men willing and able to commit to long term child rearing. Some men are deterred by the negative incentives, some are encouraged to engage only in short term behavior by perverse incentives, some are discouraged through failure or poor opportunity, and others become too damaged by abuse to continue their participation in the mating game. The result is a net loss to young women motivated by the feminine imperative; good mates are in reduced supply, and the feminist innovations in provisioning are a poor substitute for good husbands.

This, I believe, is the story that “Women Against Feminism” tells – young women are realizing that feminism is thwarting their feminine imperative. Instead of increasing female mate choice, feminism has reduced the supply of good partners by undercutting men. Instead of decreasing their reliance on men for provisioning and protection, it has damaged men’s willingness and ability to provide those services while providing only poor substitutes. Forward thinking women recognize that their imperatives extend to the next generation; these women see that feminism will damage their sons and hurt the prospects of their daughters. Feminism dismisses the sex differences that women instinctively exploit to cajole (or manipulate) men into cooperation and replaces them with an adversarial, legalistic and one-sided egalitarianism. And feminism turns out to be opposed to the very basis of the feminine imperative – the reproductive instinct. Maternal, nurturing women feel scorned by feminism’s elevation of careerism to life’s highest good. To these women, feminism is a failure. A putatively liberating doctrine, it turned out to be more oppressive than the patriarchy it sought to overthrow.

I don’t think we need to compare degrees of oppression; both the awful old patriarchy and modern feminist political correctness constrain women’s choices and tell them how to think and act. Conformity enforced by attempts to silence and ostracize dissidents doesn’t sound like liberation to me.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


More reading:

Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)
Modern Feminism, Social Justice Warriors, and the American Ideal of Freedom
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Evolve or Die: Survival Value of the Feminine Imperative
Feminism’s Heritage: Freedom vs. Special Protections
Red Pill Women — Female MRAs
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications