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Abstract

Human paternal behavior is multidimensional, and extant research has yet to delineate how hormone patterns may be related to different dimensions of fathering. Further, although studies vary in their measurement of hormones (i.e., basal or reactivity), it remains unclear whether basal and/or reactivity measures are predictive of different aspects of men's parenting. We examined whether men's testosterone and cortisol predicted fathers' involvement in childcare and play with infants and whether fathers' testosterone and cortisol changed during fathers' first interaction with their newborn. Participants were 298 fathers whose partners gave birth in a UNICEF-designated "baby-friendly" hospital, which encourages fathers to hold their newborns 1 h after birth, after mothers engage in skin-to-skin holding. Salivary testosterone and cortisol were measured before and after fathers' first holding of their newborns. Basal and short-term changes in cortisol and testosterone were analyzed. Fathers were contacted 2-4 months following discharge to complete questionnaires about childcare involvement. Fathers' cortisol decreased during the time they held their newborns on the birthing unit. Fathers' basal testosterone in the immediate postnatal period predicted their greater involvement in childcare. Both basal and reactivity cortisol predicted fathers' greater involvement in childcare and play. Results suggest that reduced basal testosterone is linked with enhanced paternal indirect and direct parenting effort months later, and that higher basal cortisol and increases in cortisol in response to newborn interaction are predictive of greater paternal involvement in childcare and play, also months later. Findings are discussed in the context of predominating theoretical models on parental neuroendocrinology.

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... For instance, women with lower testosterone are more likely to report that they are more kind, caring, and helpful (Harris, Rushton, Hampson, & Jackson, 1996). Although researchers have not explicitly examined testosterone and nurturance in romantic partners, other research suggests that men with lower testosterone show greater parental involvement and responsiveness towards their infants (Kuo et al., 2018). Similar to findings from testosterone and parent-child work, perhaps people with lower testosterone behave in more nurturant (i.e., prosocial) ways towards their romantic partners. ...
... Lower levels of testosterone are thought to be associated with more nurturant and caregiving social contexts (van Anders et al., 2011;Wingfield et al., 1990). For instance, people who have lower testosterone reported more nurturant caregiving behavior and parental involvement Kuo et al., 2018). People with lower testosterone are also more understanding and responsive caregivers: Fathers who have lower testosterone reported greater sympathy upon hearing infant cries and experience a greater need to respond to those cries (Fleming, Corter, Stallings, & Steiner, 2002). ...
... To address my second goal, I examined whether people with lower testosterone engaged in more prosocial behavior. Because parents who have lower testosterone behave in more nurturant and caregiving ways towards their children (e.g., Kuo et al., 2018; see van Anders et al., 2011), I expected that people who have lower testosterone would also behave in more prosocial ways towards their partners (e.g., show greater support; are more responsive). ...
Thesis
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is important for close relationship processes (Edelstein & Chin, 2018). For instance, people who are single tend to have higher levels of testosterone compared to people who are in committed relationships (Mazur & Michalek, 1998), suggesting that testosterone lowers once one is in a relationship. Furthermore, lower testosterone might be functional for maintaining relationships: Both men and women who have lower testosterone report higher relationship quality (e.g., Edelstein, van Anders, Chopik, Goldey, & Wardecker, 2014). However, only a few studies have examined associations between testosterone and relationship quality in individuals, let alone in a sample of couples, and studies that include couples tend to have relatively small, homogeneous samples. Thus it is not yet clear whether similar testosterone-relationship quality links and any dyadic associations between partners would be found in other samples. The first goal of this study was to examine whether people reported higher relationship quality when they or their partners have lower testosterone. I also examined how people with lower testosterone behaved towards their partners. Given that lower testosterone is thought to be associated with nurturance and caregiving (van Anders, Goldey, & Kuo, 2011), the second goal of this study was to examine whether people with lower testosterone would be more likely to behave in more nurturant (i.e., prosocial) ways towards their partner. Finally, the third goal was to test prosocial behavior as a potential mechanism underlying testosterone-relationship quality links. To address these questions, I analyzed data from 595 heterosexual couples drawn from three samples (college-aged couples, couples with children, and newlywed couples) that included baseline measures of salivary testosterone, self-reports of relationship quality, and partner interactions that were coded for prosocial behavior. I found that, in the college-aged couples and couples with children, women who had lower testosterone indeed reported higher relationship quality and showed more prosocial behavior. In contrast to expectations, men in the newlywed sample who had lower testosterone reported lower relationship quality and engaged in less prosocial behavior. I also found dyadic associations: In the college-aged couples and couples with children, women who had lower testosterone had partners who reported higher relationship quality; in the newlywed sample, women who had lower testosterone had partners who reported lower relationship quality. I did not find that prosocial behavior accounted for any testosterone-relationship quality links, suggesting that people with lower testosterone felt better about their relationships, but not necessarily because they or their partners were more behaving in more prosocial ways. I discuss potential explanations for discrepant findings across samples: The newlywed couples knew prior to their lab session that they would be discussing a disagreement, which could have caused anticipatory increases in testosterone. This study advances social neuroendocrinology work by assessing the extent to which previous testosterone-relationship quality findings replicate in larger samples of couples and contributes important new information about the associations between testosterone and prosocial behavior.
... Specifically, research in multiple societies has shown that men and women often have lower T when they have young children that require intensive childcare (Alvarado et al., 2015;Barrett et al., 2013;Gray, Kahlenberg, Barrett, Lipson, & Ellison, 2002;Kuzawa, Gettler, Huang, & McDade, 2010). In some cultural settings, fathers also have reduced T when they engage in more nurturant, direct caregiving (Alvergne, Faurie, & Raymond, 2009;Edelstein et al., 2017;Gettler, McDade, Agustin, Feranil, & Kuzawa, 2015;Kuo et al., 2018;Mascaro, Hackett, & Rilling, 2013;Weisman, Zagoory-Sharon, & Feldman, 2014). U.S. men and women with lower T also report greater commitment and satisfaction in their romantic relationships, as do their partners (Edelstein, van Anders, Chopik, Goldey, & Wardecker, 2014;Saxbe, Edelstein, et al., 2017). ...
... While these findings ostensibly conflict with the patterns we documented among Bondongo fathers, they are potentially congruent because of the distinction between basal hormone production and shorter-term reactivity (Kuo et al., 2018;Trumble et al., 2015). Based on existing models (van Anders et al., 2011;Crespi, 2016), we suggest it is plausible that in socially hierarchical contexts such as among the Bondongo and Tsimane (von Rueden et al., 2011), men who are ranked highly for dominance and status will tend to have elevated basal T and reduced basal OT, but will show short-term rises in OT production in response to socially rewarding contexts pertaining to status (e.g., hunting for Tsimane men). ...
... T, including based on behavioral and biological costs of maintaining chronically elevated basal T (Roney & Gettler, 2015;Storey, Walsh, Quinton, & Wynne-Edwards, 2000;Trumble et al., 2013). While our idea is speculative at this time, these coconsiderations of basal levels and acute reactivity merit further attention in future research on fathers' OT and family roles, paralleling past work on hormones such as T, cortisol, and prolactin (Fleming, Corter, Stallings, & Steiner, 2002;Kuo et al., 2018). ...
Article
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Introduction: Testosterone and oxytocin are psychobiological mechanisms that interrelate with relationship quality between parents and the quantity and quality of parenting behaviors, thereby affecting child outcomes. Their joint production based on family dynamics has rarely been tested, particularly cross-culturally. Methods: We explored family function and salivary testosterone and oxytocin in mothers and fathers in a small-scale, fishing-farming society in Republic of the Congo. Fathers ranked one another in three domains of family life pertaining to the local cultural model of fatherhood. Results: Fathers who were viewed as better providers had relatively lower oxytocin and higher testosterone than men seen as poorer providers, who had lower testosterone and higher oxytocin. Fathers also had higher testosterone and lower oxytocin in marriages with more conflict, while those who had less marital conflict had reduced testosterone and higher oxytocin. In contrast, mothers in conflicted marriages showed the opposite profiles of relatively lower testosterone and higher oxytocin. Mothers had higher oxytocin and lower testosterone if fathers were uninvolved as direct caregivers, while mothers showed an opposing pattern for the two hormones if fathers were seen as involved with direct care. Conclusions: These results shed new light on parents' dual oxytocin and testosterone profiles in a small-scale society setting and highlight the flexibility of human parental psychobiology when fathers' roles and functions within families differ across cultures.
... The roles of neuropeptides, oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) have become better understood as measurement techniques improved and variation in parental responsiveness has been linked to individual differences in hormone receptors (e.g., Feldman et al., 2012). Recent theoretical contributions (van Anders et al., 2011;Mehta and Prasad, 2015) have focused research on interactions among hormones in different social contexts (Jaeggi et al., 2015;Gordon et al., 2017;Bos et al., 2018;Kuo et al., 2018). Additional paternal hormone studies gradually emerged in the early 2000s, but it is in the past five years that we have seen soaring publication rates, likely due to interest generated by increases in hands-on father involvement in many societies. ...
... Both parenting studies that focused on T and CORT interactions found that fathers with low T levels performed more sensitive care. One study found that more sensitive care was also associated with high CORT levels (Kuo et al., 2018), whereas in the other it was associated with low CORT (Bos et al., 2018). These different results may be due to differences in infant age at the time of hormone sampling. ...
... These different results may be due to differences in infant age at the time of hormone sampling. CORT increases just before birth and declines thereafter (Storey et al., 2000) and it may be that the higher CORT levels in men sampled the day their babies were born (Kuo et al., 2018) reflect the father's engagement in the new paternal role. In contrast, in fathers sampled when their babies were 6 weeks old, the high CORT levels associated with less sensitive care (Bos et al., 2018) may reflect stress at non-engagement at a time when CORT baselines are normally decreasing. ...
Article
We outline the progress on the hormonal basis of human paternal behavior during the past twenty years. Advances in understanding the roles of testosterone, prolactin, oxytocin and vasopressin in fathering behavior are described, along with recent research on hormonal interactions, such as those between testosterone and cortisol, and testosterone and the peptide hormones. In addition, we briefly describe the recent leaps forward in elucidating the neurobiological and neuroendocrine basis of fatherhood, made possible by fMRI technology. Emerging from this literature is a developing and complicated story about fatherhood, highlighting the need to further understand the interplay between behavior, physiology, social context, and individual genetic variation. Given the changing roles of parents in many societies, the continued growth of this research area will provide a strong empirical knowledge base about paternal behavior on which to create policies promoting fathers' involvement in their infants' lives.
... Conversely, high levels of Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Prolactin have been generally linked to a greater amount of paternal synchrony and responsiveness Atzil et al., 2012). In addition, changes in Cortisol levels have been reported for fathers (Kuo et al., 2018). Moving to the neural activations, multiple studies have shown that fathers usually recruit neural systems tapping into sensory information processing and integration, motivation, and empathy in response to visual or auditory infant stimuli (Mascaro et al., 2014;Kim et al., 2015;Li et al., 2018). ...
... On the other hand, a relevant effect of paternal involvement has been highlighted in those studies measuring the construct more thoroughly. Going into details, paternal reactivity Cortisol after interactions with newborns has been found predictive of greater paternal involvement in childcare and play (Kuo et al., 2018). Specifically, fathers whose Cortisol levels increased significantly while holding their infants reported greater postpartum involvement in indirect care and play. ...
... The main aim of this work was to elucidate the role of paternal involvement in sensitive behaviors of father and neurobiological responses to infant cues, by examining both neurobiological and behavioral empirical studies. Overall, only 8 studies reported results related to paternal involvement, and the majority of which (n = 5; Gettler et al., 2011;Mascaro et al., 2013Mascaro et al., , 2014Abraham et al., 2014;Kuo et al., 2018) investigated neurophysiological mechanisms underlying paternal responses to infant cues. Results from these studies confirmed the presence of a significant link between hormonal changes (i.e., Cortisol, Prolactin), neural activations (i.e., Anterior Insula, Ventral Tegmental Area) and the degree of parental involvement. ...
Article
Full-text available
As fathering research has flourished, a growing body of studies has focused on behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms, respectively associated with caregiving sensitivity and responsiveness to infant stimuli. However, the association between these aspects and the key concept of paternal involvement in childcare (i.e., contribution in infant care in terms of time, availability, and responsibility) has been poorly investigated. The current work aims to systematically review the role of involvement in childcare on both neural activations and sensitive behaviors in fathers by examining (a) how paternal involvement has been measured and (b) whether paternal involvement has been associated with neurobiological activation and behavioral sensitive responses. Inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed quantitative studies, concerning fathers responding to infant stimuli at neurobiological or behavioral level, and including a quantitative measurement of paternal involvement in childcare. A quality rating for each study has been performed based on the measurements adopted to assess paternal involvement. Of 2,529 articles, 27 studies were included. According to our quality rating, 10 out of 27 studies included fairly good-standard measures for measuring paternal involvement, whereas 17 studies used good-standard measures. In addition, 11 studies provided details of paternal involvement in the context of neurobiological responses to infant stimuli, whereas 16 addressed paternal sensitive behaviors. Overall, only 8 studies reported relevant findings about the relationship between paternal involvement and neurobiological responses or sensitive behaviors in fathers. The present study is the first systematically evaluating the scope of paternal involvement in the field of Paternal Brain and fathers' sensitive responsiveness research. When high-standard measures are used, paternal involvement seems to play a significant role in modulating both the hormonal and the neural pathways associated with paternal behaviors. Remarkably, the role of paternal engagement may underpin an adaptive nurturance that is not dependent on pregnancy and childbirth but on caregiving experience. A promising positive link between paternal involvement and behavioral sensitivity may be expected in further studies, which will need to corroborate our conclusion by adopting detailed and appropriate measures assessing paternal involvement. As a future line of research, the inclusion of gay fathers may be beneficial for the field.
... For instance, in both men and women, higher T levels tend to support the initiation and establishment of sexual relationships and the protection of offspring Gettler et al., 2011a;Wynne-Edwards and Reburn, 2000). Lower T levels, however, appear to be more functional for maintaining close relationships once established: People who have lower T generally report higher romantic relationship quality and more nurturant caregiving (Edelstein et al., 2014;Edelstein et al., 2017;Kuo et al., 2018). These associations may also extend to partners, such that people whose partners have lower T also report higher relationship quality (Edelstein et al., 2014). ...
... Similarly, consistent with the idea that lower T supports more nurturant relationships (van Anders et al., 2011), lower average salivary T levels, as well as larger prenatal declines in fathers and smaller increases in mothers, have been linked with more positive parenting outcomes for both parents (e.g., more engaged parenting, higher relationship quality; Gettler et al., 2011a;Dorius et al., 2011;Kuo et al., 2018;Edelstein et al., 2017). Together, these findings suggest that, despite normative changes in T during the transition to parenthood, lower average T in both parents-smaller increases in mothers, and larger declines in fathers-may be adaptive for birth outcomes and in preparing people to become more engaged parents and more supportive partners. ...
... Findings from our study provide novel information about links between hormones and relationship processes in sexual minority couples. Lower T has been associated with more positive relationship and parenting outcomes in both men and women, such as higher relationship quality and more parenting support (Gettler et al., 2011a;Kuo et al., 2018;Edelstein et al., 2017). However, the generalizability of this work is limited by a reliance on cross-sectional samples of heterosexual 2 Results were similar when we included the 4 couples who provided prenatal T but did not complete postpartum measures. ...
Article
Although increasing numbers of gay and lesbian individuals ultimately become parents, the vast majority of research on the transition to parenthood focuses exclusively on heterosexual samples. Even less is known about the physiological implications of this major life transition among those who identify as sexual minorities. The present study begins to redress these gaps in the literature by assessing prospective links between prenatal testosterone, a steroid hormone that is negatively associated with nurturance and caregiving, and postpartum outcomes in a sample of 25 first-time expectant lesbian couples (n = 50 individuals). Consistent with prior work in heterosexual samples, which suggests that lower testosterone promotes both partnering and parenting, we found that, in both partners, lower testosterone during the prenatal period predicted better romantic relationship and parenting outcomes at three-months postpartum (e.g., higher relationship quality, more time spent doing baby care). There was also evidence for dyadic associations; for instance, birth mothers reported more overprotective behavior, and non-birth mothers reported greater commitment, when their female partners had lower testosterone. Together, our findings contribute important new knowledge about the functionality of testosterone in close relationships contexts, including some of the first evidence among sexual minorities.
... Another steroid hormone that is associated with parenting behavior is CORT. For example, it was shown that in both fathers and mothers basal CORT measured a few days after the birth of their infant was positively associated with parental behavior (Fleming et al., 1987;Kuo et al., 2018). Specifically for fathers, higher basal CORT levels in the early postnatal period, i.e., first two days after birth, predicted greater involvement in direct and indirect infant care measured a few months later (Kuo et al., 2018). ...
... For example, it was shown that in both fathers and mothers basal CORT measured a few days after the birth of their infant was positively associated with parental behavior (Fleming et al., 1987;Kuo et al., 2018). Specifically for fathers, higher basal CORT levels in the early postnatal period, i.e., first two days after birth, predicted greater involvement in direct and indirect infant care measured a few months later (Kuo et al., 2018). Interestingly, the relation between basal CORT levels and positive parenting seems to be reversed (i.e., negative) when CORT is measured several months after birth in both fathers (Bos et al., 2018) and mothers (Finegood et al., 2016;Gonzalez et al., 2012). ...
... As the infants in the current study are around eight weeks old, we expect to observe a negative association between basal CORT levels and paternal sensitivity. Concerning CORT reactivity, a significant decline in paternal CORT was observed after holding or interacting with their infant (Bos et al., 2018;Kuo et al., 2018;Storey et al., 2011). However, how this decline in CORT is related to the quality of paternal behavior is still unclear. ...
Article
Full-text available
Parental sensitivity has been studied extensively in parenting research. Recently, there has been increasing attention to endocrine factors that may be related to parental sensitivity, such as oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, and cortisol. Although hormones do not act in isolation, few studies integrated multiple hormones and examined their combined associations with parental sensitivity. The current study aimed to explore the hormonal correlates of paternal sensitivity by examining in 79 first-time fathers of young infants (2–4 months old) (1) the separate and combined associations of basal oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, and cortisol levels with sensitivity, and (2) the associations between paternal sensitivity and oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, and cortisol reactivity following father-infant interactions. We additionally explored whether interactions between the various basal hormone levels could predict paternal sensitivity. Saliva for the quantification of fathers' hormone levels was sampled before and after an interaction with their infant to determine basal levels and reactivity. Results revealed no significant associations between sensitivity and basal hormone levels or reactivity. However, results indicated that cortisol and testosterone interacted in their effects on paternal sensitive parenting. Namely, fathers with low basal cortisol levels showed more sensitivity with increasing T levels, but fathers with high cortisol levels were less sensitive with increasing T levels. However, it should be noted that the latter slope was not significantly different from zero. These findings suggest that variations in parental sensitivity might be better explained by interactions between hormones than by single hormone levels.
... Table 1), of which 19 focused on endocrine changes and two combined both endocrine and SNPs analysis. Within the endocrine studies, six studies focused exclusively on Oxytocin (OT;Feldman et al., 2010aFeldman et al., ,b, 2011Gordon et al., 2010b;Weisman et al., 2012Weisman et al., , 2013a, five studies focused on Testosterone (T; Gettler et al., 2011;Perini et al., 2012a,b;Corpuz and Bugental, 2020;, one study focused on Prolactin (PRL; Delahunty et al., 2007), two studies analyzed both OT and T (Weisman et al., 2014;Gordon et al., 2017), another two studies observed OT and Cortisol (CORT; Gordon et al., 2010a;Weisman et al., 2013b), one OT and PRL (Gordon et al., 2010c), and two T and CORT (Bos et al., 2018;Kuo et al., 2018). Regarding molecular studies, two studies analyzed both OXTR and CD38 genetic polymorphisms . ...
... The majority of studies reported longitudinal quantitative data (n = 13, Delahunty et al., 2007;Gordon et al., 2010aGordon et al., ,b,c, 2017Gettler et al., 2011;Perini et al., 2012a,b;Feldman et al., 2013;Bos et al., 2018;Kuo et al., 2018;Corpuz and Bugental, 2020;. Seven of which reported data from pre-birth, but we only considered results within the 0-12 months postpartum period, meeting the criterion for inclusion. ...
... Besides controlling for the effect of time of day for hormone values, the majority of the reviewed studies included the following covariates in their models or examined potential correlations with those prior to data analysis: parent age (Feldman et al., ,b, 2011Gordon et al., 2010b,c;Perini et al., 2012a,b;Weisman et al., 2014;Bos et al., 2018;Kuo et al., 2018;Corpuz and Bugental, 2020); education Gordon et al., 2010c;Bos et al., 2018); height (Feldman et al., , 2011Gordon et al., 2010b,c); weight or body mass index (Feldman et al., ,b, 2011Gordon et al., 2010b,c;Perini et al., 2012a,b;Corpuz and Bugental, 2020); smoking (Feldman et al., ,b, 2011Gordon et al., 2010b,c); time of last meal (Feldman et al., , 2011Gordon et al., 2010b,c); use of medication (Feldman et al., , 2011Gordon et al., 2010b,c); and number of children/parity (Gettler et al., 2011;Bos et al., 2018;Kuo et al., 2018). Anecdotally, other studies observed variables related to parents such as: gender , religiosity , ethnicity (Corpuz and Bugental, 2020), birth order , hours of employment , parental status , parental anxiety (Gordon et al., 2010c), parenting stress (Gordon et al., 2010c;Weisman et al., 2013b), and psychosocial stress (Gettler et al., 2011), sleep quality, duration or disruption (Gettler et al., 2011; Episodes of social reciprocity were longer in the OT condition. ...
Article
Full-text available
During the postpartum period, the paternal brain suffers extensive and complex neurobiological alterations, through the experience of father-infant interactions. Although the impact of such experience in the mother has been increasingly studied over the past years, less is known about the neurobiological correlates of fatherhood-that is, the alterations in the brain and other physiological systems associated with the experience of fatherhood. With the present study, we aimed to perform a scoping review of the available literature on the genetic, neuroendocrine, and brain correlates of fatherhood and identify the main gaps in the current knowledge. PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science electronic databases were searched for eligible studies on paternal neuroplasticity during the postpartum period, over the past 15 years. Reference lists of relevant key studies and reviews were also hand-searched. The research team independently screened the identified studies based on the established inclusion criteria. Extracted data were analyzed using tables and descriptive synthesis. Among the 29 studies that met our inclusion criteria, the vast majority pertained to neuroendocrine correlates of fatherhood (n = 19), followed by brain activity or connectivity (n = 7), association studies of candidate genes (n = 2), and brain structure correlates (n = 1). Collectively, studies published during the past 15 years suggest the existence of significant endocrine (testosterone, oxytocin, prolactin, and cortisol levels) and neurofunctional alterations (changed activity in several brain networks related to empathy and approach motivation, emotional processing and mentalizing, emotion regulation, dorsal attention, and default mode networks) as a result of fatherhood, as well as preliminary evidence of genetic variability accounting for individual differences during the postpartum period in fathers. No studies were so far published evaluating epigenetic mechanisms associated with the paternal brain, something that was also the focus of the current review. We highlight the need for further research that examines neuroplasticity during the experience of fatherhood and that considers both the interplay between hormones and simultaneous assessment of the different biomarkers (e.g., associations between hormones and neural activity); data collection protocols and assessment times should also be refined.
... where new mothers and fathers already showed higher concentrations of baseline cortisol before the birth and even more postpartum (e.g., Almanza-Sepulveda et al., 2020;Storey et al., 2000;Kuo et al., 2018). ...
... We proposed that father's engagement and attachment, which reflect interest in the child's world and empathy towards the child, were positively linked to father's Cort and showed enhancing effects on the diurnal decline of Cort. Fourth, we presumed for similar reasons that pronounced joint-play and cuddling episodes throughout a day would be positively related to father's Cort, as many studies showed that increases in Cort in response to the child were predictive of greater paternal involvement in childcare and play (e.g., Kuo et al., 2018). In contrast, fathers who like to engage in RTP might downregulate their Cort levels, presumably then calming the child (Atkinson et al., 2013). ...
... Not surprisingly, the more pronounced fathers' attachment was, the lower the declining T, resembling Gettler et al.(2012)'s research on the same surface cosleeping Filipino fathers. In addition, associations between fathers' attachment and Cort were positive, confirming numerous studies that demonstrated greater sensitive care related to greater Cort levels (e.g.,Almanza-Sepulveda et al., 2020;Storey et al., 2000;Kuo et al., 2018; cf., Bos et al., 2018;Gonzalez et al., 2012) ...
Article
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The present study examined testosterone (T) and cortisol (Cort) in fathers engaged with caregiving. We collected saliva samples in the mornings and evenings of two consecutive days in 150 fathers of 1- to 5-year-old children. Fathers completed questionnaires on socioeconomic status, family structure and life, sleep characteristics and body mass index (BMI), and reported on their engagement in childcare. Fathers used smartphone-based experience sampling throughout 1 week to sample ongoing activities with their children, including times of supervision, joint play, rough-and-tumble play, and cuddling episodes. External observers rated father–child attachment during a home visit. We began by testing for widely characterized covariates of T and excluded seasonal variations and known predictors associated with lowered T, such as older fathers and those with multiple and young children, lower BMI, shorter sleep duration, and sexual activity before sampling. Most interestingly, however, fathers’ engagement in childcare and attachment to the child appeared more pronounced the greater the diurnal decline in T. Cuddling predicted a similar negative association, whereas joint play and rough-and-tumble play (RTP) showed enhancing effects on declining T. Interestingly, all fathering behaviors (except RTP) were positively related to lower Cort. In contrast, supervision was ineffective on both Cort and T.
... Así, la expresión de actitudes parentales específicas es propia de cada especie, para dar protección y respuestas inmediatas a las necesidades físicas y emocionales de su cría para un óptimo desarrollo 1 . En estos procesos, las hormonas, como mecanismos biológicos, juegan un rol fundamental 14 . Las cinco hormonas más estudiadas, en humanos y otras especies, son la oxitocina (OT), testosterona (T), arginina-vasopresina (AVP), prolactina (PRL) y cortisol (CORT). ...
... En hombres, al aproximarse la paternidad presentan una disminución de testosterona y, a menores niveles de esta hormona, mayor participación en la crianza 14 . Lo mismo durante el embarazo en pareja 14,24 . ...
... En hombres, al aproximarse la paternidad presentan una disminución de testosterona y, a menores niveles de esta hormona, mayor participación en la crianza 14 . Lo mismo durante el embarazo en pareja 14,24 . Un meta-análisis reciente mostró que quienes son padres tienen niveles más bajos de testosterona que aquellos sin hijos y, si, además están involucrados en la crianza, son aún menores 23 . ...
Article
Resumen La crianza cooperativa y en especial la participación paterna en los cuidados de los hijos desde etapas tempranas, ha sido un factor decisivo en la filogenia de nuestra especie, y considerado una de las adaptaciones importantes en la separación evolutiva con el resto de los primates, la neotenia. Esto permitió un desarrollo cerebral acelerado, en recién nacidos poco autónomos y altamente dependientes de sus padres, lo que se conoce como “desarrollo altricial”. Este es un modelo frecuente en aves, con una alta participación del padre (90%), pero escaso en mamíferos (10%). El objetivo de esta revisión es presentar evidencias acerca de la existencia de mecanismos neuroendocrinos y neurológicos que condicionen ancestralmente esta conducta en padres humanos. La literatura revisada que incluye estudios en humanos, animales y paleoantropológicos, sugiere que en la filogenia de nuestra especie se han sucedido cambios neuroendocrinos y cerebrales que han contribuido a la adquisición de conductas de “paternalidad”, decisivos para la sobrevivencia y posiblemente adaptativos hasta los tiempos actuales.
... Flexibility in testosterone responses to nurturant situations may also be adaptive in producing optimal outcomes. For instance, in a recent study, fathers with lower baseline testosterone in the immediate postnatal period reported greater contributions to childcare compared to fathers with higher baseline testosterone levels (Kuo et al., 2018). Longterm declines in father's testosterone have also been linked with better parenting outcomes (Edelstein et al., 2017;Gettler et al., 2011b), suggesting that such changes may be beneficial or adaptive in promoting parental behavior. ...
... Of note, significant pre-to post-interaction changes in testosterone have not generally been documented in studies in which fathers simply sat or played with their young children (e.g., Gettler et al., 2011a;Gray et al., 2007;Kuo et al., 2018;Storey et al., 2011). These findings suggest not only that the changes observed in previous research cannot be attributed simply to the passage of time, but also that situations that pull more strongly for parental caregiving behavior, such as the SSP, might be necessary to elicit short-term changes in men's testosterone. ...
Article
We assessed parents' testosterone reactivity to the Strange Situation Procedure (SSP), a moderately stressful parent-infant interaction task that pulls for parental nurturance and caregiving behavior. Parents (146 mothers, 154 fathers) interacted with their 1-year-old infants, and saliva samples were obtained pre- and post-task to assess changes in testosterone. We examined whether testosterone reactivity differed between mothers and fathers, the extent to which parents' characteristic approaches to closeness (i.e., adult attachment orientation) contributed to testosterone changes, and whether any influences of adult attachment orientation were independent of more general personality characteristics (i.e., the Big Five personality dimensions). Results revealed that mothers and fathers showed comparable declines in testosterone during the SSP, and that these declines were attenuated among fathers with a more avoidant attachment orientation (i.e., those less comfortable with closeness). Associations between fathers' avoidance and testosterone reactivity were statistically independent of broader personality traits. Our findings provide some of the first evidence for short-term changes in both mothers' and fathers' testosterone in contexts that pull for nurturance. Moreover, these findings demonstrate that individual differences in adult attachment may play an important role in understanding such changes. We discuss possible explanations for gender differences in associations between adult attachment and parents' testosterone reactivity, and the extent to which testosterone reactivity might be sensitive to changes in context for mothers versus fathers.
... Any decline of testosterone levels during the perinatal period and after birth of a child may depend on parental investment and may rebound with time. Some studies on testosterone reactivity to parent-child interaction support this hypothesis showing a decline in testosterone levels of fathers after interacting with their own infant (Bos et al., 2018;Kuo et al., 2016;Storey et al., 2011) but other studies did not find change over time in fathers (Delahunty, 2003;Kuo et al., 2018). One study showed a decrease in men's testosterone after nurturing care of a crying infant simulator (Van Anders et al., 2012) but these findings were not replicated in a larger trial (Van Anders et al., 2014). ...
... For studies that reported more than one outcome within a specific outcome domain (e.g., various indicators of parenting quality, or morning and evening testosterone levels related to parental status), we computed a combined effect size for the study within the outcome domain using CMA. Furthermore, five studies (Alvergne et al., 2009;Bos et al., 2018;Gray et al., 2002;Kuo et al., 2018Kuo et al., , 2016 reported on outcomes across different domains. For example, baseline T levels were associated with parenting quality, and in addition results of a reactivity test were reported. ...
Article
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In fathers testosterone levels are suggested to decrease in the context of caregiving, but results seem inconsistent. In a meta-analysis including 50 study outcomes with N = 7,080 male participants we distinguished three domains of research, relating testosterone levels to parental status (Hedges' g = 0.22, 95% CI: 0.09 to 0.35; N = 4,150), parenting quality (Hedges' g = 0.14, 95% CI: 0.03 to 0.24; N = 2,164), and reactivity after exposure to child stimuli (Hedges' g = 0.19, 95% CI: -0.03 to 0.42; N = 766). The sets of study outcomes on reactivity and on parenting quality were both homogeneous. Parental status and (higher) parenting quality were related to lower levels of testosterone, but according to conventional criteria combined effect sizes were small. Moderators did not significantly modify combined effect sizes. Results suggest that publication bias might have inflated the meta-analytic results, and the large effects of pioneering but small and underpowered studies in the domains of males' parental status and parenting quality have not been consistently replicated. Large studies with sufficient statistical power to detect small testosterone effects and, in particular, the moderating effects of the interplay with other endocrine systems and with contextual determinants are required.
... Meijer, Van IJzendoorn, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2019); this is probably because downregulation of testosterone levels depends on fathers' actual involvement in child care and the presence or absence of other competitive demands. In one study, fathers' lower basal testosterone in the immediate postnatal period predicted more involvement in child care 2-4 months later (Kuo et al., 2018). Fathers with lower basal testosterone levels tend to engage in higher-quality parenting (meta-analytic effect size r = .07; ...
... In mothers, higher levels of cortisol when babies are 2-24 months old are related to lower maternal sensitivity (Finegood, Blair, Granger, Hibel, & Mills-Koonce, 2016), but directly after birth, high levels of cortisol are associated with more affectionate infant-directed behavior (Fleming, Steiner, & Corter, 1997). In fathers, cortisol levels increase in response to infant crying (Fleming et al., 2002), and decrease when they hold their newborn (Kuo et al., 2018) or interact with their toddler (Storey, Noseworthy, Delahunty, Halfyard, & McKay, 2011). The distinction between basal cortisol levels and cortisol reactivity may be essential. ...
Article
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As a result of societal changes, fathers participate more actively in child care than they used to. In this article, we propose a context‐dependent biobehavioral model of emergent fatherhood in which sociocultural, behavioral, hormonal, and neural factors develop and interact during the first 1,000 days of fatherhood. Sociocultural factors, including different expectations of fathers and varying opportunities for paternal caregiving through paid paternal leave, influence paternal involvement. Levels of hormones (e.g., testosterone, vasopressin, oxytocin, cortisol) predict fathers’ parenting behaviors, and involvement in caregiving in turn affects their hormones and brain responses to infant stimuli. The birth of the first child marks the transition to fatherhood and may be a critical period in men’s lives, with a smoother transition to fatherhood predicting more optimal involvement by fathers in subsequent years. A focus on prenatal and early postnatal fathering may pave the way for developing interventions that effectively support fathering during pregnancy and in the first years of their children’s lives.
... Likewise, transitions in roles and routines accompany shifts in behaviors and emotions, which are often associated with heightened stress, including increased risk for compromised emotional and mental health (Baldwin et al., 2018;Saxbe et al., 2018). Furthermore, psychological stress during pregnancy has been associated with altered cortisol activity in both parents (Kivlighan et al., 2008;Obel et al., 2005;Feinberg et al., 2013;Kuo et al., 2018). Relatedly, psychological stress and cortisol have been related to postnatal factors in both the parents and child (e.g., Bos, 2017;Bos et al., 2018;Zijlmans et al., 2015;Barrett and Fleming, 2011). ...
... Specifically, convergent cross-species research suggests that the related hormonal changes between partners during pregnancy support the transition to parenthood and may have evolved for adaptive reasons (Abraham and Feldman, 2018;Gettler, 2014). Glucocorticoids are likely key targets of linkage processes during pregnancy given that cross-species research has shown that cortisol and corticosterone regulate parenting behaviors (Barrett and Fleming, 2011;Bos, 2017;Kuo et al., 2018;Saltzman and Ziegler, 2014). Several studies in human and nonhuman primates have shown that, like expectant mothers, expectant fathers also show changes in cortisol during pregnancy that are similar to their partner's (Storey and Ziegler, 2016;Storey et al., 2000). ...
Article
Using data from a large international sample (N = 385) of first-time expectant parents, the current analysis investigated whether parents demonstrated diurnal cortisol linkage in late pregnancy and whether self-reported psychological stress moderated this linkage. At approximately 36 weeks gestation, mothers and fathers collected saliva samples in their home at three times on two consecutive days and reported on their psychological stress. Results from multilevel models indicated that there was significant positive within-couple diurnal cortisol linkage on average for the whole sample. However, this linkage was moderated by maternal self-reported psychological stress. Specifically, for couples with higher maternal psychological stress, cortisol linkage was strong. Conversely, for couples with lower maternal psychological stress, maternal and paternal cortisol were unrelated. These findings suggest that among higher-maternal-stress couples, lower paternal cortisol may buffer maternal cortisol, whereas higher paternal cortisol may amplify maternal cortisol. Our results support the idea that interpersonal psychological and physiological stress in close relationships is interdependent and mutually influenced. Further, our findings contribute to the field's understanding of interpersonal processes during pregnancy, which may have health-related implications in the prenatal and postnatal periods for both parents and the developing child.
... While this may be mediated in a manner that differs from human males (i.e., estrogen receptors; Trainor & Marler, 2002), this is one more example that viewing T and paternal care as unidimensional is inaccurate. Much like the current study, according to the S/P theory and non-human work, the context to which paternal investment operates is of primary importance (see Gettler, 2014;Kuo et al., 2018). ...
... At this moment, it is difficult to tease apart what an x% increase in T might indicate across such a short time period (i.e., 6 months). Kuo et al. (2018) found that a 13% T difference was enough to predict paternal direct and indirect care. The future inclusion of experimental work on T and parenting behavior (i.e., exogenous T administration) in humans would be one way to determine crude thresholds for whether changes in T observed in the postnatal period are biologically meaningful events. ...
Article
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In human males, testosterone (T) decreases in the period following the birth of off- spring. This decline has been widely interpreted as a facultative neuroendocrine response that facilitates parenting effort. Conversely, research on if (or when) this decline in T would be followed by an eventual recovery and subsequent shift away from parenting effort is lacking. In a U.S. community sample of 225 males transi- tioning to first-time fatherhood, we measured T at three occasions: third trimester, infant 3 months postnatal, and infant 9–10 months postnatal. Using a piecewise la- tent growth curve model (GCM), we detected a T rebound from when infants were 3 months old to when infants were 9-10 months old. The slope of this rebound was able to predict paternal care using two distinct measures: (a) an experience sampling method (ESM) that gathered data on paternal time allocation over the course of the study period and (b) independent coders rating fathers for the quality of paternal care during a structured task designed to elicit an infant fear response. As predicted, the more accelerated one’s T rebound (slope), the less time fathers invested in their infants across the study period. However, we found a positive relationship between T rebound and quality of paternal care during a challenging activity. Discussion will focus on nuanced reasons that contribute to these findings as well as speculate on the ultimate function of a human paternal T rebound.
... Accordingly, stable relationships and fatherhood have been associated with a decrease in testosterone levels in men (for reviews see Gray, McHale, & Carré, 2015;Grebe, Sarafin, Strenth, & Zilioli, 2019). Low testosterone levels have also been connected to increased paternal responsiveness to infants and better quality of paternal care (e.g., Gettler, Lew-Levy, Sarma, Miegakanda, & Boyette, 2020;Kuo et al., 2018;Mascaro, Hackett, & Rilling, 2013;Mascaro, Hackett, & Rilling, 2014;Storey, Noseworthy, Delahunty, Halfyard, & McKay, 2011;Weisman, Zagoory-Sharon, & Feldman, 2014; for reviews see Gettler, 2020;Meijer, Ijzendoorn, & Bakermans, 2019). Thus, testosterone has been generally assumed to be antagonistic to paternal care (e.g., Rilling & Mascaro, 2017;Storey & Ziegler, 2015). ...
... This reduced responsiveness to first graders is especially relevant, because the mean age of the fathers' actual own first children is the same as for our stimuli. These results are in line with previous research showing that paternal caregiving is inversely related to testosterone levels (e.g., Kuo et al., 2018;Kuo, Carp, Light, & Grewen, 2012;Mascaro et al., 2013) and lend further support to the challenge hypothesis which posits that testosterone mediated a trade-off between mating efforts and paternal care (Gray, Straftis, Bird, McHale, & Zilioli, 2019;Wingfield et al., 1990). ...
Article
The baby schema elicits care from potential caregivers. However, much of the research on the baby-schema is based on self-report only. To address this issue, we explored the effects of baby schema and child age on facial expressions (EMG), and eye-blink startle, in addition to self-reported liking and caring for 43 men and 48 women (39 parents). Further, basal testosterone was assessed. All groups responded with liking and caring to high baby schema, but only women also responded with more positive facial expressions. Caring and smiling towards infants compared to first graders depended on parenthood and testosterone levels. Basal testosterone levels were associated with overall reduced responsiveness to children in women and fathers, but positively in non-fathers. Whereas the baby schema overall lead to positive affect and caring, the scope of these responses and the processes underlying them, depended on gender, parenthood and hormonal status.
... Relatedly, cortisol is also important for parenting behaviors and, during pregnancy, may support the transition to parenthood for both mothers and fathers (Abraham & Feldman, 2018;Almanza-Sepulveda et al., 2020;Bos, 2017;Gettler, 2014;Storey & Ziegler, 2016;Wynne-Edwards, 2001). Indeed, research has shown that maternal and paternal cortisol in and around pregnancy are related to caregiving behaviors and parental involvement (Barrett & Fleming, 2011;Bos et al., 2018;Kuo et al., 2018;Monk & Hane, 2014;Zijlmans et al., 2015). ...
... Persistently, high levels of prenatal paternal cortisol may continue into the postnatal period and negatively affect a father's responsiveness and sensitivity during interactions with his infant, thereby impacting the infant's executive function abilities. This interpretation is consistent with studies that have found evidence that perinatal paternal cortisol is related to postnatal caregiving quality (Bos et al., 2018;Kuo et al., 2018), and the hypothesis that hormonal changes in fathers during pregnancy prepare the father for the transition to parenthood and caregiving (Saltzman & Ziegler, 2014). ...
Article
The present study investigated associations between prenatal mother–father cortisol linkage and infant executive functions. Data come from an international sample (N = 358) of predominantly white and middle‐ to upper‐class first‐time parents. During late pregnancy, parents collected diurnal salivary cortisol samples and reported on levels of psychological stress. At 24 months, children completed a battery of executive function tasks. Parent cortisol linkage was operationalized as the time‐dependent, within‐dyad association between maternal and paternal diurnal cortisol. Results indicated that prenatal linkage was positively related to infant executive functions, suggesting that stronger mother–father cortisol linkage was associated with higher executive function scores. Additionally, this relation was moderated by paternal average cortisol levels such that executive function scores were lower when fathers had higher average cortisol levels and linkage was weak. This association suggests that elevated paternal cortisol amplifies the negative relation between lower cortisol linkage and lower infant executive function scores. Importantly, these findings were observed while controlling for observational measures of caregiving and self‐report measures of psychosocial functioning and infant social‐emotional behavior. These results suggest that prenatal linkage of mother's and father's stress physiology plays a potentially important part in programming and regulating infant neurocognitive development.
... For example, human fathers with lower levels of circulating T gazed at and spent more time in physical contact with their young (Weisman et al., 2014). Additionally, lower T levels in fathers predicted greater child involvement (Kuo et al., 2018). Fathers with lower T levels are also more sympathetic to the sound of an infant crying (Fleming et al., 2002), and in fact, concentrations of T have actually been reported to decrease in response to infant crying, particularly when fathers are able to behaviorally respond to infant distress (Fleming et al., 2002;van Anders et al., 2012). ...
... In human fathers, despite wide cultural variations in paternal care (reviewed in Konner, 2018), a stronger relationship exists between basal and reactive cortisol and paternal involvement in offspring. In response to interaction with newborn and older children, higher basal cortisol is observed following childcare and play (Kuo et al., 2018). Modulations in cortisol reactivity do not act independently of other steroid hormones, as a negative relationship between caregiving quality and cortisol concentrations is observed in fathers with high levels of testosterone (Bos et al., 2018), suggesting that an interplay between the HPA and the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axes are important and warrant further investigation. ...
Article
Major life transitions often co-occur with significant fluctuations in hormones that modulate the central nervous system. These hormones enact neuroplastic mechanisms that prepare an organism to respond to novel environmental conditions and/or previously unencountered cognitive, emotional, and/or behavioral demands. In this review, we will explore several examples of how hormones mediate neuroplastic changes in order to produce adaptive responses, particularly during transitions in life stages. First, we will explore hormonal influences on social recognition in both males and females as they transition to sexual maturity. Next, we will probe the role of hormones in mediating the transitions to motherhood and fatherhood, respectively. Finally, we will survey the long-term impact of reproductive experience on neuroplasticity in females, including potential protective effects and risk factors associated with reproductive experience in mid-life and beyond. Ultimately, a more complete understanding of how hormones influence neuroplasticity throughout the lifespan, beyond development, is necessary for understanding how individuals respond to life changes in adaptive ways.
... Testosterone fluctuations are some of the only hormonal fluctuations to happen noticeably in tandem between partners [98]. Testosterone fluctuations have been examined in both the birthing parent and the non-birthing parent [99,100]. ...
... Lower testosterone for both parents in a heterosexual couple is associated with greater nurturance of the newborn and better caregiving [100]. Further, maternal and paternal testosterone synchrony in heterosexual couples predicts postpartum relationship investment [98]. ...
Article
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Purpose of Review Much research has documented changes in postpartum sexuality, including changes in sexual functioning and satisfaction for both the birthing parent and their partner(s). These changes are often linked to postpartum changes in hormonal and immune responses, which can have both direct and indirect effects on sexuality. Recent Findings Here, we review how postpartum sexuality may be changed via mental, physical, and social/relationship effects of a variety of hormones, including estrogens, progestogens, androgens, cortisol, and oxytocin. We also review the ways in which inflammation may act alongside hormones to influence postpartum sexuality. Summary We argue that, as each of these factors strongly influence the action of others, the next phase of research in postpartum sexuality must examine the bidirectional interactions of hormones and their effects on behavior, cognition, and social relationships.
... Compared to maternal caregiving, much less is known on the role of CORT in paternal caregiving. Higher paternal CORT levels and reactivity to the first time holding their babies forecasted more involvement in play and childcare in fathers 2-4 months later (Kuo et al., 2018). In contrast, in fathers of 4-to 8-month old infants, higher paternal CORT levels correlated with less proprioceptive touch and neutral affect towards the child, and with less gaze synchrony between father and child (Weisman et al., 2013). ...
... Lower T might therefore facilitate higher quality of paternal care. Indeed, fathers with lower T showed more nurturing behavior towards their 1-year-olds (Kuo et al., 2016), and reported greater involvement in direct (e.g., bathing) and indirect (e.g., washing infant's clothes) childcare (Kuo et al., 2018). Also, fathers' engagement in childcare, attachment to the child, and cuddling appeared more pronounced the greater the T diurnal decline (Ahnert et al., 2021). ...
Article
Given that parental caregiving quality affects child development from birth onwards, it is important to detect parents who are at risk for low-quality caregiving as early as possible, preferably before or soon after birth. This study investigated whether cortisol (CORT) and testosterone (T) measured during the last trimester of pregnancy and six weeks postpartum were associated with observed caregiving quality at child age 3 in mothers (N = 63) and fathers (N = 45). CORT and T were measured during an interaction with a simulator infant (pregnancy) and their own infant (postpartum). In mothers, no associations were found with CORT and T during pregnancy, but higher postpartum CORT during a mother-infant interaction was related to higher caregiving quality during toddlerhood. In fathers, the association between T during pregnancy and caregiving quality in toddlerhood was more negative for fathers with low CORT. In contrast to mothers, higher postpartum CORT in fathers was associated with lower caregiving quality in toddlerhood. These findings proved robust after applying the Benjamini–Hochberg procedure to control for false discovery rate. Our findings indicate that CORT and T during the perinatal period can forecast caregiving quality in both mothers and fathers. Moreover, our results provided evidence for the dual-hormone hypothesis, but only in fathers. These findings contribute to our growing understanding on how endocrine measures explain individual differences in caregiving quality in mothers and fathers.
... As we have discussed in past work from this study, our sample sizes of fathers were relatively small compared to some studies of paternal psychobiology in industrialized settings in more highly populated societies 72,79-82 . However, we also note that our pooled analyses (n = 45) and BaYaka sample size (n = 29) compare favorably to other recent work in this area 25,72 , especially research in similar societies 39 . That said, small sample sizes limit statistical power, as may have been the case in our moderation analyses predicting T from men's provider rankings (Provider × ethnicity), and can also contribute to inflated effect sizes for statistically significant results 83 . ...
Article
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Humans are rare among mammals in exhibiting paternal care and the capacity for broad hyper-cooperation, which were likely critical to the evolutionary emergence of human life history. In humans and other species, testosterone is often a mediator of life history trade-offs between mating/competition and parenting. There is also evidence that lower testosterone men may often engage in greater prosocial behavior compared to higher testosterone men. Given the evolutionary importance of paternal care and heightened cooperation to human life history, human fathers' testosterone may be linked to these two behavioral domains, but they have not been studied together. We conducted research among highly egalitarian Congolese BaYaka foragers and compared them with their more hierarchical Bondongo fisher-farmer neighbors. Testing whether BaYaka men's testosterone was linked to locally-valued fathering roles, we found that fathers who were seen as better community sharers had lower testosterone than less generous men. BaYaka fathers who were better providers also tended to have lower testosterone. In both BaYaka and Bondongo communities, men in marriages with greater conflict had higher testosterone. The current findings from BaYaka fathers point to testosterone as a psychobiological correlate of cooperative behavior under ecological conditions with evolutionarily-relevant features in which mutual aid and sharing of resources help ensure survival and community health.
... During labour, both fathers and mothers show substantial increases in Cort [24], perhaps best illustrating the stress accompanying the birth of an infant, also for fathers. Similarly, Cort levels have been found to increase when fathers, particularly first-time fathers, were exposed to infant crying [32], but to decrease when they held their newborn [33] or interacted with their toddler [34]. High basal Cort levels in fathers during pregnancy were related to lower quality of parenting six weeks postnatally [35]. ...
Article
How do hormonal levels in men change from pregnancy to after the birth of their firstborn child, and what is the role of oxytocin, alone or in interplay with other hormones, in explaining variance in their parenting quality? We explored in 73 first-time fathers the development of five hormones that have been suggested to play a role in parenting: oxytocin (OT), vasopressin (AVP), testosterone (T), oestradiol (E2) and cortisol (Cort). In an extended group of fathers ( N = 152) we examined associations with fathers’ behaviour with their 2-month-old infants. OT and E2 showed stability from the prenatal to the postnatal assessments, whereas AVP and T decreased significantly, and Cort decreased marginally. OT on its own or in interplay with other hormones was not related to paternal sensitivity. Using an exploratory approach, the interaction between T and E2 emerged as relevant for fathers’ sensitive parenting. Among fathers with high E2, high T was associated with lower sensitivity. Although we did not find evidence for the importance of OT as stand-alone hormone or in interplay with other hormones in this important phase in men's lives, the interaction between T and E2 in explaining variation in paternal behaviour is a promising hypothesis for further research. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Interplays between oxytocin and other neuromodulators in shaping complex social behaviours’.
... Levels can be related to the interaction between father and child [25]. Experimentally administering vasopressin to the father promotes attention to virtual baby-related avatars and influences the neural and behavioral response to the baby's crying [29]. 5. Increase in the level of cortisol, a classic stress hormone (which increases in response to the baby's cry by intensifying attention to the newborn but which decreases in skin-to-skin contact) [23,27,30]. A higher prenatal level of cortisol, however, is predictive of a lower quality of postnatal parenting of the father [31]. ...
Chapter
Nowadays, the functions and roles of the father are the consequence of a gradual transition from a "patriarchal" family to a contemporary family organization. New fathers today, are increasingly the point of reference of the mother, particularly during the perinatal period, and are ever more involved in the care of their offspring. The significant adjustments in the paternal functions are also accompanied by hormonal, neurobiological and psychological changes. Considering a gender-based approach, this chapter discussed the underlying mechanisms and the characteristics of perinatal affective disorders in fathers, by integrating empirical evidence from neurobiological and behavioral studies with anthropological and clinical observations. Perinatal psychological distress in men can be displayed, not only with traditional depressive-like symptoms, but rather through a wide array of other clinical manifestations (anxiety disorders, somatic complains, behavioral problems, and addictions) which can overlap or mask depressive symptoms, generating complex clinical pictures. Therefore, the definition of Paternal Perinatal Affective Disorders (PPAD) has been proposed to replace the term Paternal Perinatal Depression (PPND). Following this perspective, the chapter includes indications to implement effective prevention, screening and early diagnosis considering male expression of paternal perinatal distress. Implications for treatment are also discussed.
... Other landmark longitudinal studies in this area have similarly focused on the significance of this transition and fathers' hormonal changes across their partners' pregnancies (Edelstein et al., 2017), around birth (Kuo et al., 2018), and in the newborn period (Gettler et al., 2011) and how men's hormones relate to their care for their children and support of their partners during this critical time frame. A number of the articles in this special issue build from this foundation to evaluate new questions about the intersection between fathers' physiological and neural function with care, cognition, and social bonding in the prenatal, peripartum, infancy periods, and beyond. ...
... Levels can be related to the interaction between father and child [25]. Experimentally administering vasopressin to the father promotes attention to virtual baby-related avatars and influences the neural and behavioral response to the baby's crying [29]. 5. Increase in the level of cortisol, a classic stress hormone (which increases in response to the baby's cry by intensifying attention to the newborn but which decreases in skin-to-skin contact) [23,27,30]. A higher prenatal level of cortisol, however, is predictive of a lower quality of postnatal parenting of the father [31]. ...
Chapter
Nowadays, the functions and roles of the father are the consequence of a gradual transition from a patriarchal family to a contemporary family organization. New fathers today are increasingly the point of reference of the mother, particularly during the perinatal period, and are ever more involved in the care of their offspring. The significant adjustments in the paternal functions are also accompanied by hormonal, neurobiological, and psychological changes. Considering a gender-based approach, this chapter discussed the underlying mechanisms and the characteristics of perinatal affective disorders in fathers, by integrating empirical evidence from neurobiological and behavioral studies with anthropological and clinical observations. Perinatal psychological distress in men can be displayed not only with traditional depressive-like symptoms, but rather through a wide array of other clinical manifestations (anxiety disorders, somatic complaints, behavioral problems, and addictions) which can overlap or mask depressive symptoms, generating complex clinical pictures. Therefore, the definition of paternal perinatal affective disorders (PPAD) has been proposed to replace the term paternal perinatal depression (PPND). Following this perspective, the chapter includes indications to implement effective prevention, screening, and early diagnosis considering male expression of paternal perinatal distress. Implications for treatment are also discussed.
... This also goes for the 9% increase in T from 3 to 10 months postnatal. Kuo et al., 2018 found that a 13% T difference was enough to predict paternal direct and indirect care. The future inclusion of parenting and/or mating measures in this research would be one way to determine whether the changes in T observed in this sample are biologically meaningful events. ...
Article
Male testosterone (T) decreases in response to childbirth. Longitudinal support for this has come from samples across cultures. In this study, we look at individual differences in this phenomenon. Utilizing a sample of U.S. fathers, we employ life history theory to investigate the influence of a father's early experience on his neuroendocrine response to fatherhood. We conducted three home visits (n = 226 fathers) from the third trimester of pregnancy to when infants were 10 months old. In this sample, T declined from the third trimester of (a partner's) pregnancy to the early months of the postnatal period. T recovered to pre-birth levels by the time infants reached 10 months old. We did not find any evidence that one's subjective experience of their early environment could account for any meaningful variability in T calibration. Objective, "event" measures of early harshness (i.e., death of a sibling/friend) and unpredictability (i.e., parent upheaval) each uniquely predicted a younger age of sexual debut. Neither harshness nor unpredictability had any (direct or indirect) effects on T calibration. Age of sexual debut did predict the rate of T recovery from 3 to 10 months postnatal. The younger one's sexual debut, the more accelerated their T ascent during this period. We discuss the potential reasons for, and implications of our mixed results.
... Recently, fathers' self-reported attitude toward their role, which may be considered as one traitlike predictor of father involvement, was positively associated with the degree of interpersonal neural synchronization (INS) in father-child interaction (Nguyen et al., 2021). The amount of fathers' involvement has been additionally correlated with the regulation of hormones triggering caring behaviors, such as a downregulation of Prolactin and an upregulation of Cortisol (Gettler et al., 2011;Kuo et al., 2018). In line with evidence from animal models (Featherstone et al., 2000;Nunes et al., 2001;Swain et al., 2014;Storey and Ziegler, 2016), assuming the role of a committed parent and engaging in active care of the offspring may modulate parental responses toward infants, promoting a sensitive caregiving. ...
... 39 (I) It has been shown that skin-to-skin contact between the father and the infant elevates cortisol, dopamine, and oxytocin levels in the father, which results in improved bonding and rewiring of fathers' brains to create a positive association with close interaction with their babies. [40][41][42] (II-a, II-b, II-c, III) a. Be aware of the few contraindications to breastfeeding to further educate and support mothers at any stage in their breastfeeding journey. However, giving expressed breast milk but not breastfeeding is permissible for certain other maternal issues. ...
Article
A central goal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is the development of clinical protocols for managing common medical problems that may impact breastfeeding success. These protocols serve only as guidelines for the care of breastfeeding mothers and infants and do not delineate an exclusive course of treatment or serve as standards of medical care. Variations in treatment may be appropriate according to the needs of an individual patient.
... Both biological and cultural factors are likely to account for differences in intensity and frequency of physical play. For example, Kuo et al. (2018) proposed that higher levels of testosterone in fathers promote physical play, and testosterone levels in utero are believed to influence gendered play styles (Xiong & Scott, 2020). Cultural norms can also modulate the intensity and frequency of physical play: mothers are often perceived as the 'nurturer', providing the child's immediate care needs (e.g., feeding, bathing), whereas fathers are more likely to be considered 'playmates' (John et al., 2013;Lamb & Lewis, 2013). ...
Article
Full-text available
Parent–child interactions are critical for a child’s overall wellbeing and growth, however there are differences in the types of interactions that mothers and fathers engage in. For example, fathers often utilize physical play, such as Rough-and-Tumble Play (RTP), to interact and bond with their child. Father-child RTP appears to contribute to a range of child outcomes, including social, emotional cognitive and behaviour development. Given the now robust evidence for these benefits of father–child play and RTP specifically, there is a need for a more complete understanding of the factors that contribute to the quality of fathers’ RTP. This study examined the association between quality of father–toddler RTP and a range of paternal characteristics, parenting factors, child demographics and child developmental domains. The study included 64 sets of parents (mothers and fathers) and their toddler (age 18–24 months). Parent-reported questionnaires (demographic information, frequency of father–toddler RTP, father parenting stress, and child social-emotional development) were collected, observations of child developmental attainment (Bayley-III) completed and father–toddler RTP play interactions were rated for quality. We found that RTP for fathers who engaged in more father–toddler RTP, whose children were older and more socially-emotionally mature, was rated as higher quality in their RTP. By demonstrating links of RTP quality with both parenting behaviour and child development, this study contributes to a more complete understanding of the nature and context of father–child interactions. Father–child physical play, including RTP, may present an opportunity for professionals to bring fathers into their work with families.
... As a 20-min delay after the stress task usually allows for the assessment of the peak cortisol response after the most intense stressor [24], maternal cortisol reactivity was calculated by subtracting baseline cortisol from the post-stress cortisol, as similar to previous studies [6,26,42]. Maternal baseline cortisol was used as a covariate [43]. ...
Article
Guided by a biopsychosocial perspective of mothering, this study investigated the interplay among biological (maternal cortisol reactivity), psychological (maternal depressive symptoms), and social (infant emotion and regulation) factors in contributing to early changes in maternal parenting. Participants were 1,292 low-income, mother-infant pairs, assessed when the infants were 6-months (T1), 15-months (T2), and 24-months old (T3). Maternal parenting was observed at all assessment points. At T1, infant emotion expression and orienting towards mothers were observed, when maternal cortisol reactivity was assessed. Mothers reported their depressive symptoms at T1. Exploratory factor analysis revealed two parenting factors across time points: positive engagement and negative intrusiveness. Second-order latent growth curve models revealed interactions among maternal cortisol reactivity, depressive symptoms, and child negative emotion/orienting at T1 in predicting intercepts and slopes of two parenting factors. T1 maternal cortisol reactivity was associated with a higher positive engagement intercept for infants having high negative emotion at T1, but a lower positive engagement intercept for infants with low negative emotion at T1, under low T1 maternal depressive symptoms. T1 maternal cortisol reactivity was also related to a lower negative intrusiveness intercept for infants showing high orienting at T1. Longitudinally, maternal cortisol reactivity at T1 predicted a faster decline in positive engagement when infants showed high negative emotion at T1, but a slower decline when infants were less negative at T1. This study reveals a bivalent adaptation process in maternal sensitivity and enhances the current understanding of how biopsychosocial factors contribute to maternal parenting in low-income families.
... A decline in testosterone (T) was observed in fathers from the USA, Europe, and the Philippines during pregnancy and the transition to parenthood (Gettler et al., 2011;Perini et al., 2012;Saxbe et al., 2017). T levels correlated with more positive paternal behavior in samples of Jamaican, Canadian, and USA fathers, supporting theories on the trade-off between mating and parenting (Gray et al., 2017;Kuo et al., 2018). Interestingly, in a study of 80 Israeli couples, we found that while paternal plasma T was associated with lower fatherinfant synchrony at six months, only when T levels were high was there a negative association between paternal OT and affectionate touch. ...
Article
Full-text available
With the growing involvement of fathers in childrearing and the application of neuroscientific tools to research on parenting, there is a need to understand how a father's brain and neurohormonal systems accommodate the transition to parenthood and how such neurobiological changes impact children's mental health, sociality, and family functioning. In this paper, we present a theoretical model on the human father’s brain and the neural adaptations that take place when fathers assume an involved role. The neurobiology of fatherhood shows great variability across individuals, societies, and cultures and is shaped to a great extent by bottom-up caregiving experiences and the amount of childrearing responsibilities. Mechanisms of motherfather coparental brain coordination and hormonal correlates of paternal behavior are detailed. Adaptations in the father’s brain during pregnancy and across the postpartum year carry long-term implications for children's emotion regulation, stress management, and symptom formation. We propose a new conceptual model of HEALthy Father Brain that describes how a father’s brain serves as a source of resilience in the context of family adversity and its capacity to “heal”, protect, and foster social brain maturation and functionality in family members via paternal sensitivity, attunement, and support, which, in turn, promote child development and healthy family functioning. Father’s brain provides a unique model on neural plasticity as sustained by committed acts of caregiving, thereby affording a novel perspective on the brain basis of human affiliation.
... Two of these hormones are oxytocin and testosterone, which play an important role in paternal behaviour 26,27 . Low levels of testosterone throughout pregnancy and during postpartum in fathers were associated with high levels of paternal involvement in caregiving 27,28 . Moreover, high levels of postpartum oxytocin were related to increased father-infant interaction 29 . ...
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Previous studies have demonstrated that paternal caregiving behaviours are reliant on neural pathways similar to those supporting maternal care. Interestingly, a greater variability exists in parental phenotypes in males than in females among individuals and mammalian species. However, less is known about when or how such variability emerges in human males. We investigated the longitudinal changes in the neural, hormonal and psychological bases of expression of paternal caregiving in humans throughout pregnancy and the first four months postpartum. We measured oxytocin and testosterone, paternity-related psychological traits and neural response to infant-interaction videos using fMRI in first-time fathers and childless men at three time points (early–mid-pregnancy, late-pregnancy and postpartum). We found that paternal-specific brain activity in prefrontal areas distinctly develops during middle-to-late pregnancy and is enhanced postpartum. Additionally, among fathers, the timing of the development of prefrontal brain activity was associated with specific parenting phenotypes.
... Maternal plasma and salivary cortisol levels have been positively related to affectionate infant-directed behavior and sympathy towards infant cries in the first postpartum days [23,49]. In fathers, salivary cortisol sampled on the day of birth positively predicted paternal involvement 2-4 months postpartum [31]. However, these effects may be specific to cortisol measured very early postnatally as maternal sensitivity has been negatively associated with salivary cortisol at 2-6 months postpartum [27] and across the first two postpartum years [21]. ...
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Parents' ability to appropriately respond to infant crying is essential for parental care and has been found to relate to parents' own childhood experiences. Additionally, childhood experiences can affect endocrine factors, which may subsequently affect behavior. In the current study, preregistered on https://osf.io/hwgtu, we examined in expectant and new fathers (N = 152) associations between experiences of maltreatment in their own childhood, hair cortisol and testosterone concentrations and their ability to modulate handgrip force when exposed to infant crying. Cortisol and testosterone were quantified from the 1cm of hair most proximal to the scalp using Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Participants were asked to squeeze a handgrip dynamometer at full and half strength while listening to infant cries and control sounds. Results indicated that fathers who experienced more childhood maltreatment used more excessive handgrip force during infant cry sounds. Hair cortisol and testosterone were not related to either experienced childhood maltreatment or handgrip strength modulation. These findings confirm that fathers’ early experiences of maltreatment reduce their ability to modulate their behavioral responses during infant cries, but suggest that hair cortisol and testosterone concentrations do not identify the underlying mechanism of this association.
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Full-text available
Previous studies have demonstrated that paternal caregiving behaviours are reliant on neural pathways similar to those supporting maternal care. Interestingly, a greater variability exists in parental phenotypes in males than in females among individuals and mammalian species. However, less is known about when or how such variability emerges in human males. We investigated the longitudinal changes in the neural, hormonal and psychological bases of expression of paternal caregiving in humans throughout pregnancy and the first four months postpartum. We measured oxytocin and testosterone, paternity-related psychological traits and neural response to infant-interaction videos using fMRI in first-time fathers and childless men at three time points (early–mid-pregnancy, late-pregnancy and postpartum). We found that paternal-specific brain activity in prefrontal areas distinctly develops during middle-to-late pregnancy and is enhanced postpartum. Additionally, among fathers, the timing of the development of prefrontal brain activity was associated with specific parenting phenotypes.
Article
Father involvement contributes uniquely to children's developmental outcomes. The antecedents of father involvement among unmarried, African American fathers from rural areas, however, have been largely overlooked. The present study tested a conceptual model linking retrospective reports of childhood trauma and early adulthood social instability to father involvement among unmarried, African American men living in resource-poor, rural communities in the southeastern United States. We hypothesized these factors would influence father involvement indirectly, via DNA methylation of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). A sample of 192 fathers participated in 3 waves of data collection in early adulthood. Fathers reported on social instability at Wave 1; OXTR methylation was assessed via saliva samples at Wave 2; and measures of father involvement, retrospective childhood trauma, and quality of the fathers' relationships with their children's mothers were collected at Wave 3. Structural equation modeling indicated that childhood trauma was related directly to reduced levels of father involvement and to increased social instability. Social instability was associated with elevated levels of OXTR methylation, which in turn predicted decreased father involvement. The indirect effect from social instability to father involvement via OXTR methylation was significant. These associations did not operate through fathers' relationship with the child's mother and remained significant even accounting for associations between interparental relationship quality and father involvement. Findings suggest that OXTR methylation might be a biological mechanism linking social instability to father involvement among unmarried, African American fathers in vulnerable contexts and underscore the detrimental influence of childhood trauma on father involvement. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
Chapter
Research on testosterone has long been dominated by a focus on “high testosterone” behaviors, such as aggression, competition, and dominance. The vast majority of this work, including in humans, has also been conducted in exclusively male samples, based in part on presumed links between testosterone and masculinity. Yet testosterone is implicated in many psychological and interpersonal processes for both men and women, and “low testosterone” behaviors may be particularly critical for ongoing close relationships. This fairly narrow focus on high testosterone, in men, leaves major gaps in our understanding of the social neuroendocrinology of close relationships, particularly as related to positive processes like caregiving, support-seeking, and intimacy. The goal of this review is to integrate the literature on testosterone in close relationships, in both men and women, with an eye toward closeness, intimacy, and other positive processes that likely contribute to and are supported by individual differences in testosterone and changes in testosterone over time. I focus on testosterone in the context of romantic and parent-child relationships, and highlight directions for future research that can help to fill important gaps in this literature. Further, I argue that, because close relationships are inherently dynamic and dyadic, longitudinal research that includes both men and women, and ideally both couple members, is critical for a complete understanding of the role of testosterone in close relationship processes.
Article
Little is known about human fathers’ physiology near infants’ births. This may represent a period during which paternal psychobiological axes are sensitive to fathers’ new experiences of interacting with their newborns and that can provide insights on how individual differences in fathers’ biology relate to post‐partum parenting. Drawing on a sample of men in South Bend, IN (U.S.), we report results from a longitudinal study of fathers’ oxytocin, cortisol, and testosterone (N = 211) responses to their first holding of their infants on the day of birth and men's reported caregiving and father‐infant bonding at 2–4 months post‐partum (N = 114). First‐time fathers’ oxytocin was higher following first holding of their newborns, compared to their pre‐holding levels. Contrasting with prior results, fathers’ percentage change in oxytocin did not differ based on skin‐to‐skin or standard holding. Drawing on psychobiological frameworks, we modeled the interactions for oxytocin reactivity with testosterone and cortisol reactivity, respectively, in predicting father‐infant outcomes months later. We found significant cross‐over interactions for (oxytocin × testosterone) in predicting fathers’ later post‐partum involvement and bonding. Specifically, we found that fathers whose testosterone declined during holding reported greater post‐partum play if their oxytocin increased, compared to fathers who experienced increases in both hormones. We also observed a similar non‐significant interaction for (oxytocin × cortisol) in predicting fathers’ post‐partum play. Fathers whose testosterone declined during holding also reported less involvement in direct caregiving and lower father‐infant bonding if their oxytocin decreased but greater direct care and bonding if their testosterone increased and oxytocin decreased. The results inform our understanding of the developmental time course of men's physiological responsiveness to father‐infant interaction and its relevance to later fathering behavior and family relationships.
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Postpartum depression in new mothers has become a widely recognized public health concern. Paternal perinatal depression (PPND) and the mental health of fathers in the perinatal period continues to receive significantly less public attention. Overall prevalence rates of up to 25% have been documented in first-time fathers. The presence of maternal depression, unsatisfactory couple relationships, and certain psychosocial and biological risk factors are associated with poor paternal bonding and increased depression risk. Depressed fathers experience excessive self-criticism, restlessness, irritability, and aggression rather than low mood. Depression in new fathers can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, food behavior disorders, and lack of impulse control. PPND leads to developmental delay, mental health disorders, and emotional or behavioral problems in the offspring. PPND may also adversely affect a child’s ability to learn new information, with lasting intellectual and scholastic consequences. There currently are no official criteria to diagnose PPND, and neither are there validated screening tools available to fathers. A family-focused approach should be considered in place of the historically gender-focused mood assessment. Nontraditional interventions such as Internet communities, e-therapy, or group workshops are shown to combat a father’s contextual understanding of therapy. Group therapy with integrated cognitive behavioral therapy can address masculine norms surrounding the parenting roles of fathers and can help cultivate support networks that are otherwise absent among new dads. PPND is ideally addressed by the adoption of a father-inclusive model of care that shifts the parenting paradigm and provides emotional and parenting support to men as they experience their new role as dad.
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A major task for parents during the transition to second-time parenthood is to help their firstborn adjust to their new roles as siblings. Increased father involvement has been theorized to be protective for firstborn adjustment. Fathers, however, are under increasing pressure to balance both work and family responsibilities. Here we evaluate fathers’ relative involvement in 2-child families as a function of family structure, gender role beliefs, and work-family conflict in 222 dual- and single-earner families from the Midwestern region of the United States after the birth of a second child. Couples reported on father involvement with firstborns and infants when the infants were 1, 4, 8, and 12 months old. On average, fathers increased their involvement with infants but decreased their involvement with firstborns. Dual-earner fathers were more involved with their children than were single-earner fathers. Although mean levels of father involvement were different between dual- and single-earners, multigroup parallel process trajectory latent growth curve models revealed more similarities than differences between dual- and single-earners in processes guiding father involvement. Both dual- and single-earner fathers engaged in juggling childcare between children and both dual- and single-earner fathers’ involvement with infants was constrained by work–family conflict. Gender role beliefs predicted child care involvement for dual-earner, but not single-earner fathers: more egalitarian gender roles predicted greater involvement with the firstborn immediately after the birth of the second child. Results underscore the need for greater workplace support for fathers’ caregiving roles after the birth of an infant.
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Positive father involvement is associated with positive child outcomes. There is great variation in fathers' involvement and fathering behaviors, and men's testosterone (T) has been proposed as a potential biological contributor to paternal involvement. Previous studies investigating testosterone changes in response to father-infant interactions or exposure to infant cues were unclear as to whether individual variation in T is predictive of fathering behavior. We show that individual variation in fathers' T reactivity to their infants during a challenging laboratory paradigm (Strange Situation) uniquely predicted fathers' positive parenting behaviors during a subsequent father-infant interaction, in addition to other psychosocial determinants of paternal involvement, such as dispositional empathy and marital quality. The findings have implications for understanding fathering behaviors and how fathers can contribute to their children's socioemotional development. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol.
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Past paternal psychobiology research has focused almost exclusively on biological, residential fathers and the role of fathers as direct caregivers. Here, drawing on a large sample of Filipino men, we help to expand this research area by testing for relationships between fathers’ testosterone, prolactin, and weekly hours in work, childcare, and recreation. Using longitudinal data collected when men were an average of 21.5 and 26.0 years old, we tested whether changes in fathers’ investments in childcare and work interrelated with testosterone changes. We also assessed whether fathers’ residence status affected paternal testosterone changes. Cross-sectionally, we did not find evidence that fathers’ testosterone or prolactin varied based on work effort or weekly hours of childcare (all p > 0.1). Fathers who increased their weekly involvement in childcare between baseline and follow-up experienced declines in testosterone, on average (p
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A combination of field and laboratory investigations has revealed that the temporal patterns of testosterone (T) levels in blood can vary markedly among populations and individuals, and even within individuals from one year to the next. Although T is known to regulate reproductive behavior (both sexual and aggressive) and thus could be expected to correlate with mating systems, it is clear that the absolute levels of T in blood are not always indicative of reproductive state. Rather, the pattern and amplitude of change in T levels are far more useful in making predictions about the hormonal basis of mating systems and breeding strategies. In these contexts we present a model that compares the amplitude of change in T level with the degree of parental care shown by individual males. On the basis of data collected from male birds breeding in natural or captive conditions, polygynous males appear less responsive to social environmental cues than are monogamous males. This model indicates that there may be widely different hormonal responses to male-male and male-female interactions and presumably equally plastic neural mechanisms for the transduction of these signals into endocrine secretions. Furthermore, evidence from other vertebrate taxa suggests strongly that the model is applicable to other classes
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Despite the well-documented benefits afforded the children of invested fathers in modern Western societies, some fathers choose not to invest in their children. Why do some men make this choice? Life History Theory offers an explanation for variation in parental investment by positing a trade-off between mating and parenting effort, which may explain some of the observed variance in human fathers' parenting behavior. We tested this hypothesis by measuring aspects of reproductive biology related to mating effort, as well as paternal nurturing behavior and the brain activity related to it. Both plasma testosterone levels and testes volume were independently inversely correlated with paternal caregiving. In response to viewing pictures of one's own child, activity in the ventral tegmental area-a key component of the mesolimbic dopamine reward and motivation system-predicted paternal caregiving and was negatively related to testes volume. Our results suggest that the biology of human males reflects a trade-off between mating effort and parenting effort, as indexed by testicular size and nurturing-related brain function, respectively.
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Objective: Within-family concordance in physiology may have implications for family system functioning and for individual health outcomes. Here, we examine patterns of association in cortisol within family triads. Methods: A total of 103 adolescents and their parents sampled saliva at multiple timepoints before and after a conflict discussion task. We explored whether within-family associations existed and were moderated by stepparent presence and youth gender, and whether within-family patterns of influence correlated with individuals' aggregate cortisol. Results: Across the laboratory visit, the cortisol levels of fathers, mothers, and youth were positively associated. In time-lagged models, mothers' cortisol predicted fathers' cortisol levels sampled at the following timepoint, whereas fathers' predicted youths' and youths' predicted mothers' cortisol. These patterns appeared stronger in families not including stepparents. Youth gender moderated some associations: in the aggregate, youth were more strongly linked with their same-gender parent. In time-lagged models, girls were more closely linked to their mothers than boys, and both parents were more linked to girls. Youth showed higher aggregate cortisol output if they were more linked with their mothers, and lower output if more linked with their fathers; parents had higher output if they were more linked with their spouses and lower output if more linked with their children. Conclusions: These results suggest that family members' physiological activation may be linked during shared interaction, and that these patterns may be affected by family role and by youth gender. Our findings identify specific patterns of physiological influence within families that may inform family systems theories.
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In species in which males care for young, testosterone (T) is often high during mating periods but then declines to allow for caregiving of resulting offspring. This model may apply to human males, but past human studies of T and fatherhood have been cross-sectional, making it unclear whether fatherhood suppresses T or if men with lower T are more likely to become fathers. Here, we use a large representative study in the Philippines (n = 624) to show that among single nonfathers at baseline (2005) (21.5 ± 0.3 y), men with high waking T were more likely to become partnered fathers by the time of follow-up 4.5 y later (P < 0.05). Men who became partnered fathers then experienced large declines in waking (median: -26%) and evening (median: -34%) T, which were significantly greater than declines in single nonfathers (P < 0.001). Consistent with the hypothesis that child interaction suppresses T, fathers reporting 3 h or more of daily childcare had lower T at follow-up compared with fathers not involved in care (P < 0.05). Using longitudinal data, these findings show that T and reproductive strategy have bidirectional relationships in human males, with high T predicting subsequent mating success but then declining rapidly after men become fathers. Our findings suggest that T mediates tradeoffs between mating and parenting in humans, as seen in other species in which fathers care for young. They also highlight one likely explanation for previously observed health disparities between partnered fathers and single men.
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Hormonal differences between fathers and non-fathers may reflect an effect of paternal care on hormones. However, few studies have evaluated the hormonal responses of fathers after interacting with their offspring. Here we report results of a 30-minute in-home experiment in which Filipino fathers played with their toddlers and consider whether paternal experience and men's perceptions of themselves as fathers affect hormonal changes. Fathers provided saliva and dried blood spot samples at baseline (B) and 30 (P30) and 60 (P60, saliva only) minutes after the interaction. We tested whether testosterone (T), cortisol (CORT), and prolactin (PRL) shifted after the intervention. In the total sample, T did not vary over the study period, while CORT declined from B to P30 and P60, and PRL also declined from B to P30. Fathers who spent more time in daily caregiving and men who thought their spouses evaluated them positively as parental caregivers experienced a larger decline in PRL (B to P30) compared to other fathers. First-time fathers also had larger declines in PRL compared to experienced fathers. Experienced fathers also showed a greater decline in CORT (B to P60) compared to first-time fathers. These results suggest that males' paternal experience and age of offspring affect hormonal responses to father-child play and that there is a psychobiological connection between men's perceptions of themselves as fathers and their hormonal responsivity to childcare.
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In species with a high level of paternal care, including humans, testosterone (T) is believed to help mediate the trade-off between parenting and mating effort. This hypothesis is supported by the observation of lower T in pairbonded men or fathers compared to single, non-fathers; however, prior work has highlighted population variation in the association between T and pairbonding or fatherhood status. Here we evaluate this hypothesis in a large (n=890), representative birth cohort of young men (age range 20.5-22.5 years) living in Cebu City, the Philippines. Bioavailable T was measured in saliva collected prior to bed and immediately upon waking the following morning. Plasma T and luteinizing hormone (LH) were measured in morning plasma samples. In this sample, 20% of men were pairbonded, defined as living with a partner or married, 13% were fathers, and roughly half of fathers reported involvement in childcare. Pairbonded men had significantly lower T at both times of day. Unlike in other populations, this relationship was accounted for entirely by fatherhood status: among the large sub-sample of non-fathers, mean T was nearly identical among pairbonded and single men. There was a strong association between self-reported involvement in childcare and lower evening T, supporting the idea that the evening nadir in T is related to social interactions across the day. Similar relationships were found for total plasma T and LH, suggesting that these relationships are coordinated by centrally-mediated changes in LH secretion. The relatively modest T difference in relation to fatherhood at Cebu, in comparison to other studies, may reflect a lower level of paternal involvement in childcare activities in this population. Our findings using a large, well-characterized birth cohort support the hypothesized role of T as a mediator of mating and parenting effort in humans, while contributing evidence for cultural variation in the relative importance of pairbonding and fathering to these relationships.
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During the transition to parenthood, both men and women experience hormone changes that are thought to promote parental care. Yet very few studies have explicitly tested the hypothesis that prenatal hormone changes are associated with postpartum parenting behavior. In a longitudinal study of 27 first-time expectant couples, we assessed whether prenatal hormone changes were moderated by self- and partner-reported parenting outcomes at 3 months postpartum. Expectant fathers showed prenatal declines in testosterone and estradiol, and larger declines in these hormones were associated with greater contributions to household and infant care tasks postpartum. Women whose partners showed larger testosterone declines also reported receiving more support and more help with household tasks. Expectant mothers showed prenatal increases in testosterone and estradiol, and larger increases in these hormones were associated with lower partner-rated support. Together, our findings provide some of the first evidence that prenatal hormone changes may indeed be functional and that the implications of these changes may be detectable by co-parents.
Article
The transition to parenthood has been associated with declines in testosterone among partnered fathers, which may reflect males' motivation to invest in the family. Moreover, preliminary evidence has found that couples show correlations in hormone levels across pregnancy that may also be linked to fathers' preparation for parenthood. The current study used repeated-measures sampling of testosterone across pregnancy to explore whether fathers' change in T, and correlations with mothers' T, were associated with fathers' and mothers' postpartum investment. In a sample of 27 couples (54 individuals) expecting their first child, both parents' salivary testosterone was measured multiple times across pregnancy. At approximately 3.5months postpartum, participants rated their investment, commitment, and satisfaction with their partner. A multilevel model was used to measure change in testosterone over time and associations between mother and father testosterone. Fathers who showed stronger declines in T across pregnancy, and stronger correlations with mothers' testosterone, reported higher postpartum investment, commitment, and satisfaction. Mothers reported more postpartum investment and satisfaction if fathers showed greater prenatal declines in T. These results held even after controlling for paternal investment, commitment, and satisfaction measured prenatally at study entry. Our results suggest that changes in paternal testosterone across pregnancy, and hormonal linkage with the pregnant partner, may underlie fathers' dedication to the partner relationship across the transition to parenthood.
Article
The purpose of this paper is to review field studies of human male hormones and reproductive behavior. We first discuss life history theory and related conceptual considerations. As illustrations, distinctive features of human male life histories such as coalitional aggression, long-term partnering and paternal care are noted, along with their relevance to overall reproductive effort and developmental plasticity. We address broad questions about what constitutes a human male field study of hormones and behavior, including the kinds of hormone and behavioral measures employed in existing studies. Turning to several sections of empirical review, we present and discuss evidence for links between prenatal and juvenile androgens and sexual attraction and aggression. This includes the proposal that adrenal androgens—DHEA and androstenedione—may play functional roles during juvenility as part of a life-stage specific system. We next review studies of adult male testosterone responses to competition, with these studies emphasizing men's involvement in individual and team sports. These studies show that men's testosterone responses differ with respect to variables such as playing home/away, winning/losing, and motivation. Field studies of human male hormones and sexual behavior also focus on testosterone, showing some evidence of patterned changes in men's testosterone to sexual activity. Moreover, life stage-specific changes in male androgens may structure age-related differences in sexual behavior, including decreases in sexual behavior with senescence. We overview the considerable body of research on male testosterone, partnerships and paternal care, noting the variation in social context and refinements in research design. A few field studies provide insight into relationships between partnering and paternal behavior and prolactin, oxytocin, and vasopressin. In the third section of the review, we discuss patterns, limitations and directions for future research. This includes discussion of conceptual and methodological issues future research might consider as well as opportunities for contributions in under-researched male life stages (juvenility, senescence) and hormones (e.g., vasopressin).
Article
Men have the capacity to respond to the transition to fatherhood and nurturant investments in their partners and children with shifts in neuroendocrine function (such as decreased testosterone production). This capacity may be adaptive, reflecting fitness benefits accrued by some hominin males who responded to partnering and parenting with neuroendocrine shifts promoting cooperation and investment. These patterns are not uniform inter- or intraculturally, suggesting that cultural dimensions and norms that shape men’s developmental experiences as well as their social and economic roles in adulthood are potentially paramount in the expression of diverse biological responses to fatherhood. Here, I draw extensively on animal models and human studies demonstrating the effects of early-life parenting experiences on the function of neuroendocrine systems in adulthood. Based on my team’s research in Cebu, Philippines, and other anthropological studies, I propose a new model (dedication, attitude, duration, and salience [DADS]) that provides a framework for interpreting diverse human paternal biological profiles by integrating across multiple explanatory scales. Specifically, I use this model as an exemplar to highlight the utility of integrating evolutionary and phylogenetic perspectives with those focusing on the developmental niche, early-life influences on neuroendocrine system function (developmental plasticity and programming), and the broad influence of cultural processes and political economy. © 2016 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.
Article
Previous studies on the relation between testosterone (T) levels and parenting have found ample evidence for the challenge hypothesis, demonstrating that high T levels inhibit parental involvement and that becoming a parent is related to a decrease in T levels in both mothers and fathers. However, less is known about the relation between T levels and more qualitative aspects of parenting. In the current study we examined basal T levels and diurnal variability in T levels in relation to mothers' and fathers' parenting quality. Participants included 217 fathers and 124 mothers with two children (3 and 5 years of age). Evening and morning salivary T samples were analyzed with radio-immunoassays to determine circulating T levels. Parental sensitivity (i.e., child-centered responsiveness) and respect for children's autonomy were observed during free play in the family home. The results showed that higher evening T levels in mothers were associated with more sensitivity to the oldest and youngest child. Diurnal T variability was more consistently associated with parenting behavior towards their children than basal T levels. For fathers, more diurnal variability in T was associated with more sensitivity and more respect for autonomy with their youngest children. For mothers, more diurnal variability in T was associated with less sensitivity to both children and less respect for the youngest child's autonomy. These findings suggest that the T system might act differently in relation to parenting behavior in males and females.
Article
We review recent research on the roles of hormones and social experiences on the development of paternal care in humans and non-human primates. Generally, lower concentrations of testosterone and higher concentrations of oxytocin are associated with greater paternal responsiveness. Hormonal changes prior to the birth appear to be important in preparation for fatherhood and changes after the birth are related to how much time fathers spend with offspring and whether they provide effective care. Prolactin may facilitate approach and the initiation of infant care, and in some biparental non-human primates, it affects body mass regulation. Glucocorticoids may be involved in coordinating reproductive and parental behavior between mates. New research involving intranasal oxytocin and neuropeptide receptor polymorphisms may help us understand individual variation in paternal responsiveness. This area of research, integrating both biological factors and the role of early and adult experience, has the potential to suggest individually designed interventions that can strengthen relationships between fathers and their partners and offspring. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
Book
The Neurobiology of Parental Behavior takes an integrative approach that analyzes the neural underpinnings of parental behavior in mammals, including humans.
Article
Owing to humans' unique life history pattern, particularly comparatively short interbirth intervals, early weaning, and prolonged support of multiple dependents, human females have greater reproductive value and higher lifetime fertility, on average, than do their Great Ape counterparts.[1-4] As hominin females began weaning their young early and “stacking” dependents of various ages, they must have had cooperative allomaternal care partners already in place or been successful at concurrently soliciting help to ensure a high rate of survival of their offspring.[1-6] Following Hrdy, I define allomaternal care (and its derivatives, such as “allomothers” and “allomothering”) as “care from anyone other than the mother,” which thus encompasses a wide range of individuals, including fathers.[7] Who the likely allomother candidates mothers were and what form that cooperation took remain intriguing, difficult-to-answer questions, which are limited, in some capacity, by the lines of evidence available to us. Here, I present a framework for the ways in which we can integrate neurobiological-endocrine and social-behavioral data (“socioendocrinology”)[8] to contribute to this dialogue in terms of evaluating fathers' roles.
Article
In the 5-10% of mammals in which both parents routinely provide infant care, fathers as well as mothers undergo systematic endocrine changes as they transition into parenthood. Although fatherhood-associated changes in such hormones and neuropeptides as prolactin, testosterone, glucocorticoids, vasopressin and oxytocin have been characterised in only a small number of biparental rodents and primates, they appear to be more variable than corresponding changes in mothers, and experimental studies typically have not provided strong or consistent evidence that these endocrine shifts play causal roles in the activation of paternal care. Consequently, their functional significance remains unclear. We propose that endocrine changes in mammalian fathers may enable males to meet the species-specific demands of fatherhood by influencing diverse aspects of their behaviour and physiology, similar to many effects of hormones and neuropeptides in mothers. We review the evidence for such effects, focusing on recent studies investigating whether mammalian fathers in biparental species undergo systematic changes in (i) energetics and body composition; (ii) neural plasticity, cognition and sensory physiology; and (iii) stress responsiveness and emotionality, all of which may be mediated by endocrine changes. The few published studies, based on a small number of rodent and primate species, suggest that hormonal and neuropeptide alterations in mammalian fathers might mediate shifts in paternal energy balance, body composition and neural plasticity, although they do not appear to have major effects on stress responsiveness or emotionality. Further research is needed on a wider variety of biparental mammals, under more naturalistic conditions, to more fully determine the functional significance of hormone and neuropeptide profiles of mammalian fatherhood and to clarify how fatherhood may trade off with (or perhaps enhance) aspects of organismal function in biparental mammals.
Article
Although contemporary socio-cultural changes dramatically increased fathers' involvement in childrearing, little is known about the brain basis of human fatherhood, its comparability with the maternal brain, and its sensitivity to caregiving experiences. We measured parental brain response to infant stimuli using functional MRI, oxytocin, and parenting behavior in three groups of parents (n = 89) raising their firstborn infant: heterosexual primary-caregiving mothers (PC-Mothers), heterosexual secondary-caregiving fathers (SC-Fathers), and primary-caregiving homosexual fathers (PC-Fathers) rearing infants without maternal involvement. Results revealed that parenting implemented a global "parental caregiving" neural network, mainly consistent across parents, which integrated functioning of two systems: the emotional processing network including subcortical and paralimbic structures associated with vigilance, salience, reward, and motivation, and mentalizing network involving frontopolar-medial-prefrontal and temporo-parietal circuits implicated in social understanding and cognitive empathy. These networks work in concert to imbue infant care with emotional salience, attune with the infant state, and plan adequate parenting. PC-Mothers showed greater activation in emotion processing structures, correlated with oxytocin and parent-infant synchrony, whereas SC-Fathers displayed greater activation in cortical circuits, associated with oxytocin and parenting. PC-Fathers exhibited high amygdala activation similar to PC-Mothers, alongside high activation of superior temporal sulcus (STS) comparable to SC-Fathers, and functional connectivity between amygdala and STS. Among all fathers, time spent in direct childcare was linked with the degree of amygdala-STS connectivity. Findings underscore the common neural basis of maternal and paternal care, chart brain-hormone-behavior pathways that support parenthood, and specify mechanisms of brain malleability with caregiving experiences in human fathers.
Article
Although salivary testosterone (T) is often used in clinical studies accuracy is mostly questionable. State of the art data for men is sparse and for women absent. Our objective was to perform a critical evaluation of salivary T (Sal-T) as a method for indirect assessment of serum T using state of the art methods. Saliva was collected via 'salivette' and 'passive drooling' methods. Sal-T and free T in serum after equilibrium dialysis were measured by LS-MS/MS. Evaluation of Sal-T results versus free T by equilibrium dialysis (ED-T) for men gave: 'salivette' Sal-T=0.05+0.88xED-T, r= 0.43; 'passive drooling' Sal-T= 0.17 + 0.91xED-T r=0.71. In women, correlation was comparable but values are higher than free T: 'passive drooling' Sal-T= 0.12 + 2.32x ED-T, r=0.70. The higher than expected T values in saliva, appear to be explained by T binding to salivary proteins. Iso-electric focusing of saliva proteins, followed by fractionation and LC-MSMS assay of T showed marked testosterone peaks at pH 5.3 and 8.4, providing evidence for T binding in saliva to proteins such as albumin and proline rich protein (PRP). Passive drooling is the collection method of choice for testosterone in saliva. Sal-T is not directly comparable to serum free T due to T binding to saliva proteins, which substantially affects the low Sal-T in women but not the higher Sal-T in healthy adult men.
Article
The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) and the steroid cortisol (CT) have each been implicated in complex social behavior, including parenting, and one mechanism by which OT is thought to exert its pro-social effects is by attenuating hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) response to stress. Yet, no study to date has tested whether OT functions to reduce CT production in the context of the parent-infant attachment. In the current study, we examined the effects of intranasal OT administered to the parent on parent's and infant's CT levels following parent-child interaction that included a social stressor. Utilizing a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject design, 35 fathers and their 5-month-old infants were observed in a face-to-face-still-face paradigm twice, one week apart. Interactions were micro-coded for social synchrony, and salivary CT were repeatedly assessed from parent and child. Results showed that OT increased fathers' overall CT response to the stress paradigm. Furthermore, OT altered infants' physiological and behavioral response as a function of parent-infant synchrony. Among infants experiencing high parent-infant synchrony, OT elevated infant HPA reactivity and increased infant social gaze to the father while father maintained a still-face. On the other hand, among infants experiencing low social synchrony, parental OT reduced the infant's stress response and diminished social gaze toward the unavailable father. Results are consistent with the "social salience" hypothesis and highlight that OT effects on human social functioning are not uniform and depend on the individual's attachment history and social skills. Our findings call to further investigate the effects of OT administration within developmental contexts, particularly the parent-infant relationship.
Article
Largely based on pre-theory that ties high testosterone (T) to masculinity, and low T to femininity, high T is mainly studied in relation to aggression, mating, sexuality, and challenge, and low T with parenting. Evidence, however, fails to support this, and the social variability in T is better accounted for by a competition-nurturance trade-off as per the Steroid/Peptide Theory of Social Bonds (van Anders et al., 2011). Four key domains are discussed: adult-infant interactions, sexual desire, sexual behavior, and partnering. Empirical engagements with gender/sex are shown to lead to important insights over assumptions about masculinity-femininity. Humans are discussed within a comparative framework that attends to cross-species principles informed by human insights alongside human-specific particularities like social constructions, which are critical to evolutionary understandings of the social role of T. This paper thus integrates seemingly orthogonal perspectives to allow for transformative approaches to an empirically-supported social phenomenology of T.
Article
Synchrony, a concept coined by the first researchers on parenting in social animals (Rosenblatt, 1965; Schneirla, 1946; Wheeler, 1928), describes the dynamic process by which hormonal, physiological, and behavioral cues are exchanged between parent and young during social contact. Over time and daily experience, parent and child adjust to the specific cues of the at-tachment partner and this biobehavioral synchrony provides the foundation for the parent–infant bond (Fleming, O'Day, & Kraemer, 1999). Affiliative bonds—defined as selective and enduring attachments—are formed on the ba-sis of repeated exposure to the coordination between physiological states and interactive behavior within each partner, between partners, and between the physiology of one and the behavior of the other. Such social bonds, in turn, set the framework for the infant's emotional development and shape the life-long capacity to regulate stress, modulate arousal, and engage in coregulatory interactions, achievements that are central components of the child's social– emotional growth (Feldman, 2007a). Moreover, the experience of biobehav-ioral synchrony in the first months of life sets the biological and behavioral systems that enable the child to provide optimal parenting to the next gen-eration, thereby forming the cross-generation transmission of attachment patterns (Feldman, Gordon, & Zagoory-Sharon, 2010a). During the sensitive period of bond formation, infants' brains are sen-sitized to the mutual influences between physiological systems, behavioral indicators, and their interactions. Studies in mammals propose that this pro-cess of synchrony—the system's sensitivity to the coordination of physiology Research reported in this chapter was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (#01/941, #1318/08), the US-Israel Bi-National Science Foundation (2001-241, 2005-273), the March of Dimes Foundation (12-FY04-50), the NARSAD foundation (Independent Investigator Award), and the Irving B. Harris Foundation.
Article
As parents in modern western societies face increasing pressures that strain their ability to provide quality childcare, it is important to consider the neural and hormonal bases of sensitive and nurturing parenting. The topic has been explored systematically in non-human animals, and these studies have yielded a rich source of hypotheses for human studies. Considerable evidence links oxytocin (OT) with sensitive caregiving in both men and women, and with stimulatory infant contact in men and affectionate infant contact in women. Testosterone, on the other hand, decreases in men who become involved fathers, and testosterone may interfere with aspects of paternal care. In neuroimaging studies, exposing parents to child stimuli activates neural systems involved in understanding others' facial expressions (the putative mirror neuron system), others' feelings (anterior insula and thalamocingulate regions) and others' thoughts (dorsomedial prefrontal cortex), as well as reward systems involved in approach-related motivation (ventral tegmental area, substantia nigra, ventral striatum and medial orbitofrontal cortex), and systems involved with emotion regulation (lateral prefrontal cortex). There is some evidence that this activity can be attenuated in mothers who do not breastfeed, and mothers with post-partum depression, perhaps due in part to lower levels of OT exposure. On the other hand, there is evidence suggesting that high levels of oxytocin (OT) may enhance activation in some of these systems. For example, OT may stimulate dopamine release in the ventral striatum, rendering child stimuli more rewarding. A few recent studies have gone beyond merely describing neural correlates to establishing the functional significance of activation patterns by linking them with observed maternal behavior outside the scanner. The results of these studies suggest that there may be an optimal range of activation within certain neural systems, neither too high nor too low, that supports appropriate parenting. There is also mounting evidence that the very structure of the human brain is altered by the cognitive challenges inherent in learning how to parent. Given that human mothers typically receive help with childrearing, it will be important to begin studying the neural and hormonal bases of alloparental care, with a particular emphasis on fathers due to their increasing involvement in childcare in modern western societies.
Article
A behavior-based neurobiological approach to the study of normative and high-risk parenting is presented and suggests that human affiliations are formed on the basis of bio-behavioral synchrony between the online physiological and behavioral processes of attachment partners. Theoretical foundations for the model ranging from neuroscience to phenomenology are discussed, and the unique expressions of micro-level synchrony are detailed across development. Specific disruptions to parameters of synchrony in various high-risk conditions and examples for time-locked processes of biology and behavior are described. Finally, implications of the findings to the implementation of specific interventions to mothers, fathers, and families are highlighted.
Article
Stress in the parenting role has been found to be related to family functioning and parenting behavior. However, most research in this area has been conducted with clinical samples and has not compared parenting stress of mothers and fathers. In this study, 589 married couples with young children (12 to 60 months old) completed the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (Abidin, 1990) and measures of child-rearing behaviors and attitudes, social support, and child behavior. The validity of Abidin's measure and theoretical model was tested, and results were mixed. Small effects were found for mothers and fathers, and these were moderated by child age and marital happiness. Stress as a normal consequence of parenting is discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Support groups in online communities provide an anonymous place to exchange information and advice. Previous research has suggested that these groups offer a safe, nonjudgmental forum for new parents to share experiences and interact anonymously. This study investigated how participants in online parenting groups experience support via the Internet and what types of support they receive. All posts made over a 2-week period on the parenting-related discussion boards of an Irish parenting Web site were analyzed using content and thematic analyses. Exploratory, semistructured interviews were also conducted with 2 forum participants to discuss their experience of using the Web site. Themes uncovered from the data gathered included the attempts by posters to dispel the myths surrounding motherhood and the recognition of the superiority of the mother as caregiver. The results revealed that the parenting Web site was seen as a safe, supportive space, in which mothers could develop an enhanced frame of reference in which to better understand the role of parenting. The role of online support groups as a viable solution to the decreasing social networks created by modern society is discussed, along with the implications of the findings for future practice and research.
Chapter
A quick scan of how mothers engage with their infants and how they feel about it indicates just how variable mothering is – some mothers talk to their infants, while others sing, stroke and cuddle, and disattend, and, sadly, will neglect or be harsh with them. Although “responsive” maternal behavior enhances the fitness of the mother by ensuring the survival and reproductive efficacy of the offspring, this broad “phenotype” is not a unitary construct, controlled by a single endocrine or brain system, but instead comprises multiple behavioral systems, each with its own neural, endocrine, and behavioral profile. The quality of mothering shown by a new mother depends on her experiences with infants while growing up, her stress level, her affective state, her attention and executive function, how her perceptual systems are tuned, the salience to her of infants and infant-related cues, and how rewarding she finds her interactions with her infant. These behavioral systems are affected by circulating hormones and are mediated by an equally complex set of brain systems with their own neurochemistries and sensitivities. These systems in turn have developed as a function of mothers’ genetics and early experiences in the family of origin. Using both animals and humans as models for one another, this chapter explores this array of interacting factors that contribute to mothers’ responses to their young infants.
Article
We examine the link between parental testosterone and children's perceptions of their relationship with their mother and father. Using data from 352 predominantly white working and middle class families, we find no direct link between mother's and father's testosterone and parent-child closeness. However, the association between mothers' testosterone and mother-child closeness appears to be influenced by the quality of two other family relationships. When father's marital satisfaction is low, mothers with high testosterone have a poorer relationship with their children. And, when fathers report low levels of intimacy with their children, high testosterone women have a poorer relationship with their children. No comparable associations were observed among fathers.
Article
We tested first-time fathers with their 22-month old toddlers to determine whether social context variables such as pre-test absence from the child and presence of the mother affected physiological measures associated with paternal responsiveness. Heart rate and blood pressure readings as well as blood samples to determine prolactin, testosterone and cortisol levels were taken before and after the 30-min father-toddler interactions. Fathers were tested on a day when they were away from their child for several hours before testing ('without-child' day) and on another day where they remained with their child throughout the day ('with-child' day). Most measures decreased over the 30-min test period but relative decreases were context-dependent. Men maintained higher prolactin levels when they were away from their children longer before testing on the 'without-child' day. Cortisol levels decreased during both tests and they decreased more on the 'with-child' day for men who had spent more time alone with their toddler before the test. Heart-rate and diastolic (but not systolic) blood pressure decreased more on the 'with-child' day than on the 'without-child' day. Fathers' testosterone levels decreased when their partners were less involved in the interactions. Compared to men with high responsiveness ratings on both days, men whose responsiveness increased after being away from their child on the 'without-child' day maintained higher systolic blood pressure and had a greater decrease in testosterone levels. We conclude that context may be more important in determining fathers' physiological responses to child contact than has previously been appreciated, particularly for some individuals.
Article
Hormones, and hormone responses to social contexts, are the proximate mechanisms of evolutionary pathways to pair bonds and other social bonds. Testosterone (T) is implicated in tradeoffs relevant to pair bonding, and oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) are positively tied to social bonding in a variety of species. Here, we present the Steroid/Peptide Theory of Social Bonds (S/P Theory), which integrates T and peptides to provide a model, set of predictions, and classification system for social behavioral contexts related to social bonds. The S/P Theory also resolves several paradoxes apparent in the literature on social bonds and hormones: the Offspring Defense Paradox, Aggression Paradox, and Intimacy Paradox. In the S/P Theory, we partition aggression into antagonistic and protective aggression, which both increase T but exert distinct effects on AVP and thus social bonds. Similarly, we partition intimacy into sexual and nurturant intimacy, both of which increase OT and facilitate social bonds, but exert distinct effects on T. We describe the utility of the S/P Theory for classifying 'tricky' behavioral contexts on the basis of their hormonal responses using partner cuddling, a behavior which is assumed to be nurturant but increases T, as a test case of the S/P Theory. The S/P Theory provides a comparative basis for conceptualizing and testing evolved hormonal pathways to pair bonds with attention to species, context, and gender/sex specificities and convergences.
Article
Recent evidence suggests that, in humans, variations in testosterone (T) levels between men reflect their differential allocation in mating versus parenting efforts. However, most studies have been conducted in urbanized, monogamous populations, making generalizations from them questionable. This study addresses the question of whether indicators of male reproductive effort are associated with variations in salivary T levels in a polygynous population of agriculturists in rural Senegal. We first show that pair-bonding and/or transition to fatherhood is associated with T profiles: married fathers (N=53) have lower morning and afternoon T levels than unmarried non-fathers (N=28). Second, among fathers, individual differences in parenting effort, as well as variations in mating effort, predict morning T levels. Indeed, men highly investing in parental care show lower morning T levels. Moreover, among men under 50, polygynous men show higher morning T levels than monogamous men. Taken together with previous results in monogamous settings, these findings suggest that the endocrine regulation of reproductive effort is probably a general feature of human populations.
Article
Salivary cortisol is frequently used as a biomarker of psychological stress. However, psychobiological mechanisms, which trigger the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) can only indirectly be assessed by salivary cortisol measures. The different instances that control HPAA reactivity (hippocampus, hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals) and their respective modulators, receptors, or binding proteins, may all affect salivary cortisol measures. Thus, a linear relationship with measures of plasma ACTH and cortisol in blood or urine does not necessarily exist. This is particularly true under response conditions. The present paper addresses several psychological and biological variables, which may account for such dissociations, and aims to help researchers to rate the validity and psychobiological significance of salivary cortisol as an HPAA biomarker of stress in their experiments.
Article
The Child Care Activities Scale (CCAS) and Parental Role Preference Scale (PRPS) were developed to measure parental involvement in four domains of child care: direct care, indirect care, amount of sole responsibility, and play. The CCAS measures level of involvement of each parent in 21 child care activities. The 12-item PRPS is intended to discriminate among how much parents ideally would like to participate, and how much they actually do participate in child care. The psychometric properties of both scales are presented using data from two studies. Recommendations for the future use of the scales are given.
Article
The purpose of this study was to examine the response of salivary cortisol to acute exercise, and to directly compare serum and salivary cortisol responses to sub-maximal exercise. Eight males volunteered to participate in the study. On three separate days following the assessment of maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max), the subjects exercised on a bicycle ergometer at 75% of their VO2max for 30 min. On a fourth day, the subjects rested quietly, and this served as a control condition. On each of these days, five serial samples of either blood, saliva, or both blood and saliva were obtained at 15-min intervals before, during, and after exercise. Submaximal exercise elicited a significant (P less than 0.05) increase in both serum and salivary cortisol above resting control levels immediately and 15 min following exercise under all exercise conditions. In addition, significant correlations (all P less than 0.01) were observed between serum and salivary cortisol at each of the five sampling periods. The correlations were as follows: r = 0.89 at -15 min; r = 0.60 at 0 min; r = 0.72 at 15 min; r = 0.90 at 30 min; and r = 0.93 after 15 min of recovery. Saliva was also obtained immediately before and 5 min following the assessment of VO2max, and there was a significant (P less than 0.05) increase in post-VO2max test (1.07 +/- 0.12 micrograms X dl-1) compared to pre-test (0.71 +/- 0.06 micrograms X dl-1) salivary cortisol levels. The results of this experiment indicate that salivary cortisol is a potentially valid measure of serum cortisol response to short-term cycling.
Article
Salivary cortisol concentration was found to be directly proportional to the serum unbound cortisol concentration both in normal men and women and in women with elevated cortisol-binding globulin (CBG). The correlation was excellent in dynamic tests of adrenal function (dexamethasone suppression, ACTH stimulation), in normals and patients with adrenal insufficiency, in tests of circadian variation and randomly collected samples. Women in the third trimester of normal pregnancy exhibited elevated salivary cortisol throughout the day. The relationship between salivary and serum total cortisol concentration was markedly non-linear with a more rapid increase in salivary concentration once the serum CBG was saturated. The rate of equilibrium of cortisol between blood and saliva was very fast, being much less than 5 minutes. These data, combined with a simple, stress-free, non-invasive collection procedure, lead us to suggest that salivary cortisol is a more appropriate measure for the clinical assessment of adrenocortical function than is serum cortisol.
Article
New mothers are more attracted to the body odor of newborn infants than are nonmothers. In this study we investigated the relation of postpartum hormones and of prior experience with infants to this enhanced maternal attraction to infant odors. New mothers were asked to complete a hedonics task, using a pleasantness scale to provide an attraction score to different odorants presented on a cotton substrate in a 1-pt Baskin-Robbins container. Mothers were "blind" to the contents of the container. Participants also completed an extensive set of 100-item likert scales concerning their attitudes toward infants, care taking, own maternal adequacy, and other interpersonal relations. Mothers were videotaped interacting with their infants and provided salivary samples prior to the interaction. Salivary samples were assayed by radioimmunoassay (RIA) for salivary concentrations of cortisol, progesterone, and testosterone. Results show that first-time mothers with higher cortisol concentrations were more attracted to their own infant's body odor. Mothers with higher cortisol levels were also better able to recognize their own infants' odors. While cortisol was not related to attitudinal measures of maternal responsiveness, mothers with more prior experience interacting with infants exhibited both more attraction to infant odors and more positive maternal attitudes. Together, prior maternal experience and postpartum cortisol explain a significant proportion of the variance in mothers' attraction to newborn infant odors. These relations are discussed in terms of the variety of "meanings" cortisol could have during the postpartum period.
Article
The glucocorticoid hormone cortisol is essential for many forms of regulatory physiology and for cognitive appraisal. Cortisol, while associated with fear and stress response, is also the hormone of energy metabolism and it coordinates behavioral adaptation to the environmental and internal conditions through the regulation of many neurotransmitters and neural circuits. Cortisol has diverse effects on many neuropeptide and neurotransmitter systems thus affecting functional brain systems. As a result, cortisol affects numerous cognitive domains including attention, perception, memory, and emotional processing. When certain pathological emotional states are present, cortisol may have a role in differential activation of brain regions, particularly suppression of hippocampal activation, enhancement of amygdala activity, and dendritic reshaping in these regions as well as in the ventral prefrontal cortex. The coordinated actions of glucocorticoid regulation on various brain systems such as those implicated in emotional processing can lead to perceptual and cognitive adaptations and distortions of events that may be relevant for understanding mood disorders.
Article
Objective The aim of this study was to determine whether salivary cortisol measured by a simple enzyme immunoassay (EIA) could be used as a surrogate for serum total cortisol in response to rapid changes and across a wide range of concentrations. Design Comparisons of matched salivary and serum samples in response to dynamic hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis testing. Subjects Healthy women (n = 10; three taking oral oestrogens) and men (n = 2), aged 23–65 years, were recruited from the community. Measurements Paired saliva and serum samples were obtained during three protocols: 10 min of exercise at 90% of maximal heart rate (n = 8), intravenous administration of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH; n = 4), and dexamethasone suppression (n = 7). Cortisol was measured in saliva using a commercial high-sensitivity EIA and total cortisol was measured in serum with a commercial radioimmunoassay (RIA). Results The time course of the salivary cortisol response to both the exercise and CRH tests paralleled that of total serum cortisol. Salivary cortisol demonstrated a significantly greater relative increase in response to the exercise and CRH stimuli (697 ± 826%vs. 209 ± 150%, P = 0·04 saliva vs. serum). A disproportionately larger increase in free cortisol, compared with total, would be expected when the binding capacity of cortisol-binding globulin (CBG) is exceeded. In response to dexamethasone suppression, relative decreases in cortisol were not significantly different between the two media (−47 ± 56%vs.−84 ± 8%, P = 0·13 saliva vs. serum). Although a significant linear correlation was found for all paired salivary and serum total cortisol samples (n = 183 pairs, r = 0·60, P < 0·001), an exponential model provided a better fit (r = 0·81, P < 0·001). The linear correlations were strengthened when data from subjects on oral oestrogens (n = 52 pairs, r = 0·75, P < 0·001) were separated from those not taking oestrogens (n = 131 pairs, r = 0·67, P < 0·001). Conclusions Salivary cortisol measured with a simple EIA can be used in place of serum total cortisol in physiological research protocols. Evidence that salivary measures represent the biologically active, free fraction of cortisol includes: (1) the greater relative increase in salivary cortisol in response to tests that raise the absolute cortisol concentration above the saturation point of CBG; (2) the strong exponential relationship between cortisol assessed in the two media; and (3) the improved linear correlations when subjects known to have increased CBG were analysed separately. Thus, an advantage of measuring salivary cortisol rather than total serum cortisol is that it eliminates the need to account for within-subject changes or between-subject differences in CBG.
Article
To expand our understanding of the neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying human fatherhood, including its cross-cultural expression, we investigated the hormonal correlates of fatherhood in the greater Kingston, Jamaica area. We recruited 43 men, aged 18-38, to participate: 15 single men; 16 "coresidential" fathers (men who live with their adult female partner and youngest child); and 12 "visiting" fathers (men who live apart from their adult female partner and youngest child). The research protocol entailed biological sampling before and after a 20-min behavioral session during which single men sat alone and fathers interacted with their partner and youngest child. Hormone measures relied upon minimally invasive techniques (salivary testosterone and cortisol, finger prick blood spot prolactin, urinary oxytocin and vasopressin). Results revealed significant group differences in average male testosterone levels (p=0.006), with post hoc contrasts indicating that visiting fathers had significantly (p<0.05) lower testosterone levels than single men. Prolactin profiles also differed significantly across groups (p=0.010) whereby post hoc contrasts showed that prolactin levels of single men declined significantly compared with the flat levels of visiting fathers (p<0.05). No group differences in cortisol, oxytocin or vasopressin levels were observed. However, among fathers, vasopressin levels were significantly and negatively (r=-.431, p=0.022) correlated with the age of a man's youngest child. These results thus implicate lower testosterone levels as well as prolactin and vasopressin in human fatherhood. These findings also highlight the importance of sociocultural context in human fatherhood while exhibiting parallels with existing data on the non-human vertebrate hormonal bases of paternal care.
Article
This study was to demonstrate that Sal-T is a reliable biomarker of androgen status in the diagnosis of male hypogonadism. In order to validate the salivary testosterone assay (Sal-T), its reproducibility, the agreement with serum free testosterone levels (Free-T), the correlation with other circulating androgen markers (bioavailable testosterone, total testosterone) and cut-off values were defined. We studied 52 eugonadic (E) and 20 hypogonadic (Hy) men. Sal-T was assayed using an adapted radioimmunoassay for serum testosterone. Sal-T concentrations were compared in nine cases before and after citric acid stimulation of salivary flow rate. Free-T and bioavailable testosterone (Bio-T) were calculated by Vermeulen equation and SHBG were determined by binding assay. Sal-T did not depend on salivary flow rate and morning samples from 07.00 h to 09.00 h were stable. Agreement between Sal-T and Free-T measurements was confirmed in all subjects. Sal-T levels correlated positively with all circulating androgens, showing the best correlation with Free-T in E (r = 0.92) as well as in Hy (r = 0.97). A cut-off value of Sal-T < or = 0.195 nm showed 100% sensibility and specificity to rule out hypogonadism. Our data showed that Sal-T is a reliable marker of testosterone bioavailability. The results support the inclusion of this biomarker as a noninvasive approach in the diagnosis of male androgen deficiency.
The neuroendocrinology of fatherhood