Parenting Science and Practice
Lower baseline testosterone (T) among men is generally associated with more sympathetic and nurturant responses to infant stimuli. The effect of exposure to infant crying on men’s levels of T, however, is not well understood. The present study aimed to measure men’s T responses to high and low levels of infant crying. Changes in fathers’ (n = 18) and non-fathers’ (n = 28) salivary T levels from baseline were measured in response to caring for an infant simulator programmed to cry often (high-demand condition) or infrequently (low-demand condition) during a 20-min caregiving simulation. Men exposed to low-demand conditions exhibited significant T reductions from baseline, whereas men in high-demand conditions exhibited increases in T. Compared to men who displayed decreases in T following the caregiving simulation, men who displayed increases in T provided less sensitive care. Results suggest a potential role of high levels of crying in provoking physiological reactions among men that may set the stage for hostile or aggressive responses. More research is needed to illuminate contextual factors that contribute to men’s variable responses to infant crying. (Author abstract)
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