Study: Testosterone Levels Lower in Fathers

dadanddaughterThe first longitudinal study of testosterone levels in fathers has found that the longer a man has been a father–and the more involved with the daily care of his children he is–the lower his testosterone level drops.

The study measured testosterone levels in 21-year-old men before they became fathers, and then again 5 years later.  Those who became fathers had more than double the drop in testosterone than non-fathers (all men experience a drop in testosterone as they age).  And those men who spent more than three hours caring for their children each day had the lowest level of all.

The New York Times reports on the study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

“The real take-home message,” said Peter Ellison, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard who was not involved in the study, is that “male parental care is important. It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men.”

“Unfortunately,” Dr. Ellison added, “I think American males have been brainwashed” to believe lower testosterone means that “maybe you’re a wimp, that it’s because you’re not really a man.

“My hope would be that this kind of research has an impact on the American male. It would make them realize that we’re meant to be active fathers and participate in the care of our offspring.”

The study, experts say, suggests that men’s bodies evolved hormonal systems that helped them commit to their families once children were born. It also suggests that men’s behavior can affect hormonal signals their bodies send, not just that hormones influence behavior. And, experts say, it underscores that mothers were meant to have child care help.

“This is part of the guy being invested in the marriage,” said Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who also was not involved in the study. Lower testosterone, she said, is the father’s way of saying, “ ‘I’m here, I’m not looking around, I’m really toning things down so I can have good relationships.’ What’s great about this study is it lays it on the table that more is not always better. Faster, bigger, stronger — no, not always.”

(image via: http://www.hfihouston.org)

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  1. by dadoffourgirls

    On September 13, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    This study really shouldn’t be a surprise to most. If you have made a decision to be a parent (and remain in your child’s life), then you have chosen to open up part of your heart that possibly wasn’t being used to it’s full potential. Kids tend to bring out the best of us, and if that means it lowers our testosterone, then be proud of that and embrace it. Hopefully not only your kids will notice you care, but your friends, family, and coworkers will take notice as well. Oh, and go buy a pink shirt. :-)
    ~Jeremy~

  2. by Virginia Hill Bendure

    On September 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    You guys may have it all wrong!! The Lord God made men with testosterone to be leaders of their families and progesterone for women to be the natural nurturers (haven’t you ever noticed the difference in the way men hold babies and the way women hold them?). Of course men’s testosterone is going to diminish when they give up the leadership role. We need real men just as much as we need stay-at-home mothers. Gender roles make for healthy families and happy children!! Viva la Testosterone!!!

  3. by DaLynn

    On September 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Thank you, Virginia! And Amen! I was kind of confused, wondering why on earth diminishing testosterone would be viewed as a good thing? That is completely backwards! Wow, what a totally messed up worldview, Parents. This makes me sad. :(

    Testosterone levels no, don’t determine the man. And it certainly doesn’t speak to a medical issue. But men have testosterone for a REASON, and their care of their family is different than a woman’s nurturing. Not that a man shouldn’t spend time with his family; he absolutely should. But his leadership within the family unit requires the things testosterone provides. What a sad time we live in, when it is viewed as negative that a man should be most inclined to provide and protect his family vehemently.

    Lord, forgive us!

  4. by Gabrielle

    On September 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Virginia and DaLynn, you scare me. My husband is NOT the leader of our family – we are equal leaders, equal parents, equal decision makers. I am no “natural” nurturer. I didn’t want to have children when I was younger, and I certainly didn’t have any “maternal instinct”. Gender roles are societally based, ever-changing, and not set in concrete. We absolutely do not follow them in my family. My husband does provide for and protect his family, and so do I. Right now I’m protecting my daughter most vehemently from old-fashioned, “backwards” people stuck in out-dated sexist ideas about men and women.

  5. by Doris

    On September 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Wow, you people are reading more into the study than is actually there. You make it sound as if the article is suggesting men should replace the women as the primary caretaker. The article didn’t even say that the men involved in the study were the primary caretakers. The study just found that men who were active fathers had lower testerone than those who weren’t. Who said the fathers in the study gave up the leadership role? Just because a man is an involved parent doesn’t mean he is no longer the leader. You make it sound as if a father cannot do both. And a man doesn’t need testerone to be a good provider or protect his family. Do employers give higher raises to men with higher testerone levels? What were you born in the stone age?

  6. by Chelley

    On September 13, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Doris, I agree… The female body releases estrogen during definitively female biological processes like childbirth, nursing, menstruation and menopause. It does not magically make women nurturers and housewives. It is incorrect to assume then that testosterone is what makes men protectors, providers and leaders. When there is no man present in the home, the woman instinctively takes over the roles of provider, protector and leader and it isn’t because she suddenly grew literal gonads. Testosterone is necessary for procuring a mate and producing a family. That it decreases after fatherhood, especially involved fatherhood, is no surprise when you think about the basic biology behind the process. This shows that men are meant to stick around after making babies and that the male role in a child’s life is just as important as a mother’s. I don’t think this study is being read into too far at all. Our bodies tell us a great many things. It’s about time we started listening. And I agree with the first poster as well. Having a child made a HUGE difference in my partner’s persona. He is happier, more upbeat, more sensitive, more compassionate. He was a great guy before, but now he’s so much more loving and understanding. He, however, has not become LESS of a protector by any means. He’s become 100% more protective and has become more dedicated to his role as a leader (along with myself) in our family. The more time he spends with the baby, the more he mellows out and the harder he works–at his job and on himself. He feels like a better man because of it.

  7. by me

    On September 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I think Doris and Chelley understood the article. I also think they meant that with the lower levels that men were sticking around aka not CHEATING!! Many times men cheat, for many reasons, but one reason is because their testosterone doesn’t go down and mom might be to busy to give him the attention he wants. I think the article is showing a good thing, as men are helping out more and they are happy with it.

  8. by Dani

    On September 14, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Virginia and DaLynn, could it be just as plausible that men were designed to have a hormonal shift after the birth of their children and involvement in their lives? This change isn’t new just because we are discovering it now. It has been happening for all of humanity, but we are just now keying into it. Perhaps its meant to be that way. Perhaps its there to help men transition into a family oriented role. Nothing wrong with that. I’m with Doris and Chelley.

  9. by teenshiders

    On September 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm

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  15. by orange rhino

    On January 24, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Lower testosterone men are at a big disadvantage when they go to fight a wooly mammoth with spears.

  16. by Bewt

    On January 21, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    T is also injected as steroid by sports people to boost their performance and to gain muscles. Some of the products on the market are specially formulated for such physical boosts. A medical prescription is also necessary if Hormone replacement therapy is being used to boost physical activities. few sports organisations control such boosts and it is advisable to have the views from the respective sports organisations whether such supplements is permitted during tournaments. However for training purposes, there should be no such restrictions.

  17. by Brooklyn

    On January 23, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    From the hormone family, T is mostly a men sex hormone. However it is also produced in women in low quantity. It plays a primary role in the development of boys and it is responsible for male characteristics like voice, hair growth, reproductive organ development. In females it is produced by the female sex organs and for men it is produced by the testicular organs.

  18. by Eduardo Jaffee

    On February 8, 2013 at 5:44 am

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic blog!|

  19. [...] that men with higher testosterone levels are less interested in raising kids. But a man’s testosterone level can vary over his lifetime because of age, diet and general health, while the size of his family [...]