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Dads not so tough after all: testosterone drops when fathers with children

Fathers more responsive to children than previously thought.

A responsive father
A responsive father
Image: Matt Crossick/EMPICS Entertainment

TESTOSTERONE LEVELS IN men drop when they sleep near their children, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame, suggesting that men are more responsive to their childrens’ needs than previously thought.

Looking at the sleeping habits of 362 fathers between 25-26 years of age, researchers found that fathers who slept on the same surface as their children had the lowest levels of testosterone.

“Human fathers’ physiology has the capacity to respond to children,” Lee Gettler, a Notre Dame anthropologist said. “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.

Higher testosterone is linked to behaviours that might make men worse fathers, for example by making them more prone to taking risks or looking for cheap thrills.

But according to the researchers, they may not be as likely to take such actions when they are with their children.

“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.

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