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Port Huron Hospital Men's Health News for Winter 2011

2011-12-14

 

Port Huron Hospital, Port Huron, Michigan, Men's Health News for Winter 2011

When Real Men Become Fathers

Fatherhood brings many changes, but one of them may be particularly surprising: a drop in testosterone levels. Researchers suspect it's because a man with children no longer needs to compete with other men for a mate.

Photo of a man holding a baby

Although the study findings don't prove that fatherhood directly affects testosterone levels, nor how a man's hormonal systems detect fatherhood, researchers did find that once men become fathers, they experience "a really dramatic" reduction in testosterone levels, says study author Lee T. Gettler, Ph.D., at Northwestern University.

"There's something that's going on in their first months that's helping them transition to their role as fathers," Dr. Gettler says.

Kids vs. no kids

The researchers examined results of blood tests of 624 young men in the Philippines who were followed over 4.5 years. Those who got married or found long-term girlfriends and became fathers were more likely to have higher testosterone levels before fatherhood.

Once they became fathers, however, their testosterone levels dropped by 26 to 34 percent, depending on the time of day it was measured. That's roughly twice as much of a drop in testosterone levels as the single men who didn't become fathers. And, the drop in testosterone levels was even more dramatic in those men who were directly involved in caring for their child.

Focus on children

Dr. Gettler doesn't think the lower testosterone level makes men less tough or less masculine. But, it might make them more attuned to the needs of their kids and less oriented toward competing with other men for the attention of women or engaging in risky behavior.

"Our assumption is that there's something about physically interacting with their kids, whether it's through sight or smell or physical touch, that activates something in the brain of men and has this trickle-down effect," Dr. Gettler says.

Stronger family ties

One theory is that lower testosterone levels might be a side effect of the increase in bonding hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin.

Robert J. Quinlan, Ph.D., at Washington State University, sees these findings as a possible opportunity for strengthening family ties.

"One might manipulate the system by encouraging fathers to get the early experience with children that lowers testosterone levels, and then perhaps family stability and child outcomes would improve," he says.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Port Huron Hospital is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

National Center on Fathers and Families

National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center - Father Involvement in Children's Education, Care, and Support

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Longitudinal evidence that fatherhood decreases testosterone in human males

Winter 2011

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Make the Most of Family Moments

The time you spend with your children each day doesn't have to be scripted or scheduled. Here are some other ways you can become involved with your children:

  • Listen up. Listen not just for what happened, but for what they are telling you about their day through their actions and tone.

  • Read together. This teaches kids that books are not only a source of education but also of pleasure.

  • Play board games. You'll interact with your children while having fun.

  • Limit screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of quality television or videos for children older than 2, and no screen time for kids under 2.

  • Focus on their unique interests. For some kids, it might be going to a ball game; for others, shopping at the mall.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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