You may have read an alarming article warning women about the "stray-at-home-dad" effect.

Househusbands, it asserted, are more likely to have affairs because "engaging in infidelity may be a way of re-establishing threatened masculinity". And because, according to Dr Helen Fisher: "The type of man who chooses to stay at home is biologically wired to have an affair... he will, most likely, be an entrepreneurial type who registers high on the dopamine scale."

Pretty much the sole redeeming feature of such writing is that it initiates discussion. And whether you're looking at gay parenthood or gender roles at home, discussion around modern-day models of family life is vital. Precisely because of the stereotypes and biases we see in "research" like this, which is designed expressly to be picked up by the press. Including right here.

This much is clear: As a constant feature of evolution, social change is a given. It is also, often, positive. As a species, were are for the most part growing more tolerant of change, not less. But there will always be those who rally against change. And those that form the vanguard of change will often be the scapegoats of their "studies" and "surveys"; serving as fodder to denigrate and misconstrue.

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So have no doubt, where there is a receptive audience there will be artful manipulation of 'facts' used to inflame and incite.

Yes, maybe the survey by the University of Connecticut did display results that inferred men who are financially dependent on their spouses are "most likely to be unfaithful".

When viewed in a certain light, from a certain angle and distance. But of far greater importance is the question about which other significant variables were measured or, more to the point, left out. And why they were left out.

Findings in this type of research are frequently over-simplified. To suggest stay-at-home dads cheat because they feel emasculated avoids the question of the whole multiplicity of reasons that infidelity occurs - in either gender.

It also ignores the far more fundamental and underlying issues of income, overwork, corporate flexibility, social policy and gender equality. To compromise the legitimacy of these questions with propaganda about "emasculated" men needing to "punish their higher income earning spouses" therefore makes for truly uncomfortable reading.

That on the one hand a man can be berated for not being emotionally in touch with his children and family life, and on the other assumed to cheat because his higher-earning spouse emasculates him, is an insulting narrative for both genders, not just women. It means childrearing is 'unmanly'. It means working is 'unwomanly'. It means there are distinct roles for women and equally distinct roles for men, and that daring to nurture a family flexibly is wrong.

Because with surveys and 'research' like this the message is clear: we should not seek to change nor reconfigure the way we live our lives, for it is dangerous. When we do, villains and scapegoats are held up to prove this danger.

Advances in child developmental psychology have proven that children thrive best with both parents in their lives. Immaterial of which responsible parent is the primary caregiver. Children who are lucky enough to grow up with parents who can interchange their resources and roles will be the more robust and flexible for it. That their parents can continue to cooperate in this way, even if separated, will support the resilience of those children. Slowly but surely this is the finding that thorough and intelligent research is showing.

Never forget, when you come across this sort of scare-mongering: It wasn't so long ago the earth was thought to be flat, that witches were burnt at the stake, and that homosexuality was illegal. We are better than that, and we are better than this.

- nzherald.co.nz