The Chemistry of Fatherhood: How Men’s Brains Respond to Parenting

New studies show that fatherhood changes the way a man’s brain chemistry operates.


A lot has been written and studied on how motherhood affects a woman’s body and brain, but there is little corresponding research into the changes a man undergoes when he becomes a father. Until now… Two recent studies into the hormonal and chemical changes men experience when they become fathers has shed new light on the subject, and the results are incredibly interesting.


Study 1: Lowering testosterone makes for better caregivers?


The first study was a small one, conducted by Robin Edelstein, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, and her team. They looked at a group of 29 expectant parents and measured their hormonal levels during the course of a single pregnancy to determine if there were any changes along the way.


The measurements were taken for all the couples at four specific points along the way – weeks 12, 20, 28 and 36, in the form of saliva samples. And what exactly were the researchers hoping to track in the spit of expectant parents? Four things – testosterone, cortisol, estradiol and progesterone. As can be expected, all four of the hormones increased in all of the women, but the interesting results were the changes in the men.


All the men showed significant drops in their testosterone and estradiol levels, while their cortisol and progesterone levels stayed the same. So what does that mean? Well, no one’s completely sure, but there are some theories. The results, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, suggest that lower testosterone levels coincide with less aggression, which in turn could help men become better caregivers.


Study 2: Men’s brain chemistry changes as they bond with their kids


Although this study used even fewer subjects, the study itself happened over the course of years. A group of researchers from Yale scanned the brains of 16 professional men at a variety of stages during the development of their children, looking for neurochemical changes. The results? A father’s brain chemistry does change as he bonds with his child.


The changes showed specifically that fathers become more “motherly” in dealing with their children as they develop. But that isn’t the only things changing in new dads. Results of other changes include fathers becoming more emotionally responsive, better at multitasking, and being generally more perceptive of children’s needs.


Included in the conclusion of this study is a note about how these changes noted in fathers have a lasting effect on their children’s lives. “These early father-infant interactions and emotional bonding become the basis of the father-infant attachment, which has a long-lasting impact on cognitive functions and social attachment for offspring.”


Fathers are important to the healthy growth and development of their children

At The Kronzek Firm we understand the importance of a father’s role in his children’s lives. And while both of these studies were small, we agree that they support the widely accepted idea that dads are very important in their kid’s lives. So if you or a loved one are fighting to stay involved in your children’s lives, we can help. Our highly skilled family law attorneys have spent decades helping dads fight for fair custody and visitation agreements, and we can help you too. Call 866 766 5245 today and talk to someone who can make a difference.