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Evol Hum Behav. 2000 Mar 1;21(2):79-95.

Hormonal correlates of paternal responsiveness in new and expectant fathers.

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Department of Psychology, Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada


Little is known about the physiological and behavioral changes that expectant fathers undergo prior to the birth of their babies. We measured hormone concentrations and responses to infant stimuli in expectant and new fathers living with their partners to determine whether men can experience changes that parallel the dramatic shifts seen in pregnant women. We obtained two blood samples from couples at one of four times before or after the birth of their babies. After the first sample, the couples were exposed to auditory, visual, and olfactory cues from newborn infants (test of situational reactivity). Men and women had similar stage-specific differences in hormone levels, including higher concentrations of prolactin and cortisol in the period just before the births and lower postnatal concentrations of sex steroids (testosterone or estradiol). Men with more pregnancy (couvade) symptoms and men who were most affected by the infant reactivity test had higher prolactin levels and greater post-test reduction in testosterone. Hormone concentrations were correlated between partners. This pattern of hormonal change in men and other paternal mammals, and its absence in nonpaternal species, suggests that hormones may play a role in priming males to provide care for young.


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