A five-minute test to predict if your partner will be a good dad? Yeah, right

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

Researchers reckon a simple five-minute role-playing test with dolls will predict if a man will be a good dad and we all know that's ridiculous.

The Ohio University study involved videotaping 182 expectant fathers, interacting with a doll, during the third trimester of their partner's pregnancy. And no, they weren't THAT type of doll, they were 'baby dolls'.

Researchers wanted to discover which 'dads-to-be' had good 'intuitive parenting' skills, by examining how well they interacted with their fake babies.

Did they talk directly to their 'baby'? Did they use baby talk or smile at their 'baby'? Did they show concern for its wellbeing? Or did they treat it like, you know, a plastic baby doll? 

Except it wasn't even that – it was a custom-made doll that consisted of a baby onesie sewn shut with about three kilos of rice inside, to make its weight similar to a newborn.

The doll's head was made of green fabric sewn onto the onesie. It looked nothing like an actual baby. It looked like a demon puppet.

"It may seem silly to have adults play with dolls, but it is actually pretty easy for them to do," said lead study author Lauren Altenburger said.

Yes, it does seem silly. Please, tell us more.

"The birth is right around the corner, so they are already thinking about what it is going to be like. They took the role playing seriously," she said.


"We were able to detect the capacity for positive parenting in these men before they even became fathers."

This can't be an actual study. I'm pretty sure everyone is playing a joke on us and those dads. 

But no, the men agreed to be examined again, this time interacting with their actual babies after they were born. 

Research assistants watched the fathers teaching their nine-month-old babies to play with either a shape sorter or stacking rings and rated how well they paid attention and responded to their child, how engaged they were and if they expressed positive feelings with their child.

Those dads who had higher ratings interacting with the fake baby, were shown to be better dads at the nine-month mark. 

And this is where I have to step-in and say what everyone's thinking – what is even going on? How can this study really mean anything? Perhaps it could prove if they would be a good uncle who visits rarely, hypes the kids up and then leaves - not a dad.

A five-minute role-play with a onesie filled with rice will not predict if your partner will get out bed when the baby's crying in the middle of the night. It will also not provide a clear indication of how your partner will cope with a massive poo explosion.

And do you think playing with a doll will prove how they'll cope with your rollercoaster of emotions, bleeding nipples and inability to walk after having your vagina or belly stitched together, also while caring for a newborn? Nope. No, it will not.

And this 'baby' they spent five minutes with, and managed to charm the researchers into thinking they love like a real baby, it didn't vomit, wee or scream did it? In fact, it didn't move at all.

So, how will we know if the men will cope changing their baby's nappy at 3am and when they turn to grab a fresh nappy, an actual poo starts to come out its bum all over the place. I reckon that should be part of the experiment. 

How about if researchers gave the men a carton of beer each. They then made them run barefoot over rocks, every hour, for 24-hours. Whatever beer was left at the end of the experiment they could drink quietly on the couch, eating hot chips, while watching something they loved on the television.

But just as they lifted the bottle to their mouth, researchers would give them an actual crying, hungry baby, with a dirty nappy to hold, while their partner shouted at them. Then they could record just how happy and positive they were then.

I reckon that might be a better predictor of their parenting skills.