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Horm Behav. 2007 Feb;51(2):213-20. Epub 2006 Dec 5.

Prolactin responses to infant cues in men and women: effects of parental experience and recent infant contact.

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Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology Graduate Programme, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.


We used a longitudinal design to test whether parental experience differentially affects the development of prolactin responses to infant cues in men and women. Couples provided two blood samples at three tests, one test just before their babies were born, and two tests during the early postnatal period (n=21). Nine couples repeated the tests near the birth of their second babies. In the 30 min between the two samples, couples listened to recorded infant cries at the prenatal test and held their baby (fathers) or a doll (mothers) at the postnatal tests. Blood samples were analyzed for prolactin concentrations. Prolactin values were then related to sex and parity differences as well as to questionnaire data concerning emotional responses to infant cries and previous infant contact. We found that (1) prior to the birth of both the first and second babies, women's prolactin concentrations increased after exposure to infant stimuli, whereas men's prolactin concentrations decreased; postnatal sex differences varied with parity; (2) women's prolactin reactivity did not change significantly with parental experience; (3) the same men's prolactin concentrations decreased after holding their first newborns but increased after holding their second newborns; this change was not gradual or permanent; (4) men reporting concern after hearing recorded infant cries showed a different postnatal pattern of prolactin change after holding their babies than men not reporting concern; and (5) men who had little contact with their babies just prior to testing had a more positive prolactin response than men who had recently held their babies for longer periods. Although parental experience appears to affect men's prolactin responses, differences in reactivity were also related to patterns of recent infant contact and individual differences in responses to infant cues.

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