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Fathers Biologically Attuned To Their Children When Sleeping Nearby

Posted by Brad Duchaine | Raising Your Child | Wednesday 3 June 2015 4:31 am
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New research from the University of Notre Dame has revealed that fathers who sleep near their children experience a drop in testosterone. Previous research from humans and other species suggests that this reduction might make men more responsive to needs of their children and help them emphasize on the demands of parenthood.

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

“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.”

“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.”

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

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