Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fathers biologically attuned to their children when sleeping nearby, research reveals

Date:
September 7, 2012
Source:
University of Notre Dame
Summary:
Mothers aren't the only ones who are biologically adapted to respond to children. New research shows that dads who sleep near their children experience a drop in testosterone. Previous research from humans and other species suggests this decrease might make men more responsive to their children's needs and help them focus on the demands of parenthood.

Baby with dad.
Credit: oksix / Fotolia

Mothers aren't the only ones who are biologically adapted to respond to children. New research from the University of Notre Dame shows that dads who sleep near their children experience a drop in testosterone. Previous research from humans and other species suggests this decrease might make men more responsive to their children's needs and help them focus on the demands of parenthood.

Related Articles


In a recent study, Notre Dame Anthropologist Lee Gettler shows that close sleep proximity between fathers and their children (on the same sleeping surface) results in lower testosterone compared to fathers who sleep alone.

The study will appear in the September 5 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Gettler sampled 362 fathers, all of whom were between 25-26 years old, and divided them according to their reported nighttime sleeping location: solitary sleepers, those who slept in the same room as their children, and those fathers who slept on the same surface as their children.

Fathers' testosterone levels were measured from saliva samples collected upon waking and again just prior to sleep. Though the waking hormone levels of the three groups showed no significant differences, fathers who slept on the same surface as their children showed the lowest evening testosterone.

"Human fathers' physiology has the capacity to respond to children," Gettler says. "Our prior research has shown that when men become fathers, their testosterone decreases, sometimes dramatically, and that those who spend the most time in hands-on care -- playing with their children, feeding them or reading to them -- had lower testosterone. These new results complement the original research by taking it one step further, showing that nighttime closeness or proximity between fathers and their kids has effects on men's biology, and it appears to be independent of what they are doing during the day."

Substantial research has been conducted on the sleep and breastfeeding physiology of mother-baby co-sleeping, but this is the first study to examine how father-child sleep proximity may affect men's physiology, and it is the first to explore the implications of co-sleeping for either mothers' or fathers' hormones.

In other species, testosterone is known to enhance male mating effort through its influence on muscle mass and behaviors related to competing with other males and attracting female attention. The hormone is thought to operate similarly in humans, and higher testosterone has been linked to behaviors that might conflict with effective fathering, such as risk taking and sensation seeking. Prior research found that men with lower testosterone reported greater sympathy or need to respond to infant cries relative to men with higher testosterone.

"There are so many intriguing possibilities here for future research: Why do fathers have lower testosterone when they sleep very close to their children? Does it reflect human fathers' roles in our evolutionary past? How much do fathers vary in their nighttime care when their kids are close by? How does co-sleeping change fathers' sleep architecture when we know that co-sleeping increases mothers' arousals and mothers sync to their infants' sleep patterns," says Gettler.

"Testosterone is a hormone that frequently is a part of public discourse, but the false idea that 'manliness' is exclusively driven by testosterone often dominates the conversation. There is growing evidence that men's physiology can respond to involved parenthood -- something that was long thought to be limited to women. This suggests to us that active fatherhood has a deep history in the human species and our ancestors. For some people, the social idea that taking care of your kids is a key component of masculinity and manliness may not be new, but we see increasing biological evidence suggesting that males have long embraced this role."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Notre Dame. The original article was written by Susan Guibert. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lee T. Gettler, James J. McKenna, Thomas W. McDade, Sonny S. Agustin, Christopher W. Kuzawa. Does Cosleeping Contribute to Lower Testosterone Levels in Fathers? Evidence from the Philippines. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (9): e41559 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041559

Cite This Page:

University of Notre Dame. "Fathers biologically attuned to their children when sleeping nearby, research reveals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120907165259.htm>.
University of Notre Dame. (2012, September 7). Fathers biologically attuned to their children when sleeping nearby, research reveals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120907165259.htm
University of Notre Dame. "Fathers biologically attuned to their children when sleeping nearby, research reveals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120907165259.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

AFP (Dec. 12, 2014) As the countdown to Christmas gets underway, so too does the Father Christmas conspiracy. But psychologists say that telling our children about Santa, flying reindeer and elves is good for their imaginations. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Fathers Who Sleep Closer to Children Have Lower Testosterone Levels

Sep. 5, 2012 Closer sleeping proximity between fathers and children is associated with a greater decrease in the father's testosterone level, with possible implications for parenting ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins