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The Chemistry of Fatherhood

By Heather Turgeon |

Fatherhood and attachment theory

Fatherhood changes the brain

Sympathetic pregnancy, or “couvade syndrome,” used to be a male myth. The idea that men undergo real physical changes, like gaining weight, when their wife is pregnant was relegated to the realm of the psychosomatic — an overly dramatic dad.

But it’s no longer a myth that men change during pregnancy and fatherhood. As I explore in this week’s Science of Kids column, both dads and babies undergo real chemical shifts when they’re around each other.

What are they?

The hormones cortisol and testosterone drop in men after birth, likely as a way of keeping dad focused on caregiving, not fighting. Oxytocin levels rise to support bonding.

And in other primates, like the very domestic marmoset monkey – who gives us a helpful window into how our own attachment system works — neuron connections grow in some vital ares of the prefrontal cortex at the start of fatherhood. Not only that, as I mentioned in a recent post on this subject, in some species, babies’ brains have been found to change in dad’s company. Read this week’s science column for an in-depth look at the chemistry of fatherhood.

What about you? Do you feel like fatherhood (or motherhood) has changed you?

Image: Flickr/Spigoo

More from Heather Turgeon:

CaveMom: Stop Telling me to Co Sleep, Please

Do it Now: The Perfect 10 Minute Meditation

Teen Trends: Gastric Bands for Obesity?

50 Amazing Naptime Ideas

Concussions and Cars: Why Parents Worry About the Wrong Things.

Why Kids with Language Delays are More Aggressive

Top 10 Pediatric Myths

Non Stick Chemicals Linked to Higher Cholesterol in Kids

Too Many Moms Still Die in Childbirth: Report

The Best, Speediest Ways to Get Out the Door on Time.

Your Baby is About to Get Chubbier: Pediatricians Are Switching Growth Charts.

Are You in Control of Your House?

Doctors Misdiagnosed in all Cases of Infant Death From Whooping Cough

Too Much Pregnancy Weight Sets Up Babies for Obesity

Antipsychotic Medications for Toddlers?

C-Section Twice as Likely When Doctors Induce Labor.

Why I Abandoned the “Readiness” Approach to Potty Training.

Are Babies Sleeping Less These Days?  5 Nap Tips and More.

More on Babble

About Heather Turgeon

heatherturgeon

Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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