Hands-on fathers experience bonding hormone

family life

Hands-on fathers who play with their children experience a release of the same bonding hormone as mothers new research reveals.

Oxytocin is produced when new mothers breastfeed and have other close contact with their babies. It encourages  empathy and a focus on the child’s needs, providing a sense of reward and bonding.

In a new study, researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found elevated levels of the hormone in new fathers as well.

Study leader James Rilling explained:

“Our findings add to the evidence that fathers, and not just mothers, undergo hormonal changes likely to facilitate increased empathy and motivation to care for their children.”

He added:

“I’m interested in understanding why some fathers are more involved in caregiving than others. In order to fully understand variation in caregiving behaviour, we need a clear picture of the neurobiology and neural mechanisms that support the behaviour.”

Rilling and his team suggest a link between a failure to bond with newly born babies and postnatal depression. Oxytocin can be administered artificially as a nasal spray and such treatment could help parents who are struggling they claim.

Thirty fathers featured in the study underwent a brain scan during which they were shown photos of their child, an unknown adult and an unknown child. Those who had received a dose oxytocin spray showed a marked increase in neural activity when shown a photo of their own child, focused on those parts of the brain linked to empathy and a sense of reward.

The study was published in the journal Hormones and Behaviour.

Image by absolut xman

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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