Study conducted by Israeli scientist finds that, like women, new
fathers secrete hormones that strengthen bonds with their newborn

Studies conducted by an Israeli scientist suggest that, like women,
new fathers secrete hormones that strengthen their attachment to their
infants. Prof. Ruth Feldman, a psychologist and brain scientist at the
Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center at Bar-Ilan University,
and adjunct professor at the Child Study Center at Yale University
School of Medicine, recently published a series of studies describing
the hormonal activity in new fathers that enhances the feeling of
fatherhood and their connection to the newborn infants.

Most research until now has sought to scientifically measure the bond of love between mothers and the newborn.

In contrast, in the study led by Prof. Feldman, as part of the
doctoral thesis of Ilanit Gordon, and published this month in the
journal Hormones and Behavior, researchers studied the levels of
oxytocin and prolactin produced in fathers when interacting with their

It has been previously established that
mothers secrete oxytocin during pregnancy, and that prolactin increases
milk supply in a baby's first months. The current study measured the
level of these hormones in the blood and saliva of fathers in the second
and sixth months of the newborns' lives.

Some 43 fathers were documented on video as they played social games
with the infants, and games meant to pique the babies' curiosity. They
were asked to present the babies with six new toys kept in a basket.

The researchers tracked the connection
between the fathers and infants in terms of fathers' glances at the
children, their demonstration of affection, the sounds they made, and
physical contact, including hugs, kisses, and touching the babies'
bodies, hands and feet.

It emerged that fathers with higher levels
of prolactin were more likely to play the investigative games meant to
arouse curiosity.

At the same time, the higher the level of
oxytocin, the more likely the fathers were to establish a strong social
connection with the baby. "Hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin have a
significant role in establishing a sense of fatherhood during the
infant's first growth stages," Feldman says.

Mothering love, fathering curiosity

In an earlier study led by Prof. Feldman,
increased levels of oxytocin were found in both mothers and fathers who
played with their babies for 15 minutes. Hormone levels were measured in
112 parents – 71 mothers and 41 fathers – from saliva samples taken
before and after play.

Findings showed that oxytocin levels rose
during play among both mothers and fathers, but that in mothers this
happened only if they gave the babies a lot of loving physical contact.
In contrast, the hormone level rose in fathers only if they supplied a
stimulating touch that encouraged the infant to explore.

An additional study directed by Feldman and
published recently examined the levels of oxytocin in infants. It was
conducted with 55 parents (36 mothers and 19 fathers ) of infants aged
from four to six months. Its findings show that hormone levels after
play increased in parents and babies alike.

"In this way, via coordinated interaction,
parents shape children's ability to establish close relations, to feel
empathy, to understand the feelings and intentions of others, and to
trust in the other," Feldman says.


Source: Ha'aretz –