The Effects of Parenthood on Testosterone Levels in Men

Written by Dr. White, Published on September 18th, 2018

Download: The Effects of Parenthood on Testosterone Levels in Men


Testosterone Levels depend on a wide variety of factors, such as age, activity level, diet, and lifestyle. It turns out that having a child also impacts Free and Total Testosterone. Studies have shown that new fathers tend to have lower Testosterone than their peers. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Humans usually raise children as couples.

Elevated Testosterone Levels are associated with a higher sex drive. While kids are young, Testosterone Production drops to encourage the father to focus on his child rather than concentrate on sex. Testosterone Suppression not only leads to inhibited aggression, but it also appears to increase empathy and other feelings associated with good parenting.

Though parenthood is associated with lower Testosterone Levels, this is not always the case for the individual. Some fathers don’t respond to parenthood with the same level of Testosterone suppression, which can lead to increased feelings of frustration and aggression toward the child.

How Does a Baby Crying Influence Parental Response in Fathers?

It appears that the sound of a baby crying sends emotional and hormonal messages to the parents who tend to encourage taking care of the child. While crying babies can elicit aggravation and annoyance, it also appears to activate pathways associated with caring and empathy strongly. While every person is wired differently, the tendency is for crying to produce an emotional response that encourages nurturing.

A recently published study monitored Testosterone Levels in fathers when they heard their infants crying. It was discovered that the crying child reduced the circulating Testosterone of the father. They also were found to be more sensitive and nurturing to the child’s needs. This study also included a self-report section. This data showed that men that loved their wives and considered themselves empathetic were found to be more sensitive toward their babies.

Previous studies have shown that males with children have suppressed Testosterone Production compared to childless men, but it’s been more challenging to determine the effect that taking care of children has on Free and Total Testosterone. Research has shown that men experienced reduced Testosterone Levels in response to the crying of an infant, but the study had not been replicated on fathers with their own children.

Fathers Separated From Children To Study The Effects of Crying On Testosterone Levels

Researchers in this study utilized an investigatory practice known as Strange Situation. In this paradigm, the father and baby are separated for three minutes to induce feelings of isolation in the child, after which the father returns to console the child.

After the father and infant were reunited, the parent was instructed to interact with the child to attempt to teach them a complex task. All children in the study were one year old. Saliva samples were collected at the beginning of the research and when the parent and child were reunited. Saliva was also swabbed after the teaching session was complete.

Changes In Testosterone Level Associated With Response To Child’s Separation Anxiety

Researchers discovered that the depth of Testosterone Decline correlated with their sensitivity toward the child when teaching them. They took note whether the parent was patient and supportive or if he expressed signs of frustration.

While men that experienced Testosterone suppression in response to crying tended to be more supportive and nurturing, some men experienced increased Testosterone Levels in response to crying. These parents tended to be more frustrated and aggravated by their children when teaching them.

This research is vital because a nurturing and supportive environment is conducive to a healthy upbringing for the child. Understanding the effects of Testosterone on parenting habits can give us clues on how to improve father-child relationships.

How Do Testosterone and Empathy Relate to Parenting In Men?

It is believed that the rise or fall in Testosterone Levels associated with crying is the result of how the father interprets the distress of the child. Fathers that score high on empathy tend to have more concern about addressing the child’s plight and the desire for providing comfort and guidance is associated with lower Testosterone Levels. Fathers that score lower on empathy tend to be more aggressive and frustrated at the child rather than concerned about soothing the child, which is paired with Testosterone elevation.

Research feel that helping fathers empathize with their child will result in Testosterone Reduction and improved nurturing response. Understanding the connection between physiological response, psychology, and action can help counselors, health care providers, and other professionals facilitate better parenting through knowledge and reflection.

Prior research has shown that a father’s involvement in their child’s day-to-day life has powerful psychological effects on both parents. When fathers make a strong effort to soothe their infants, this causes mothers to have less stress in response to their infant’s wails. This strongly suggests that active; nurturing fathers create a healthy atmosphere for the couple where the mother is less stressed because she is not primarily or solely responsible for caring for the child’s emotional needs.

How Do Men Change In Response To Their Partner’s Pregnancy?

After a woman becomes pregnant, the expectant father tends to experience a decline in circulating Testosterone which occurs months before the child is born. After the child is born, this decline is associated with lower aggression and hostility and increased empathy toward the child, correlated with the depth of Testosterone Decline. These men were also more likely to help out with household chores and be empathetic to their partner in general.

By understanding how our hormones impact our actions (and vice versa) we can take steps to ensure that fathers are more well-adapted to meeting the needs of their children, which has a massive impact on both the family and society at large.

 

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