The Testosterone Tradeoff: Hormone Decrease Makes Better Fathers

It’s official: having a baby will lower your testosterone levels. If you’re a man, of course. And while this may seem scary and vaguely emasculating, it’s actually a good thing, according to a new study by researchers at Northwestern University. While testosterone is good for some activities, like competing for a mate, it’s not great for other activities, like nurturing a newborn baby. Here’s part of the abstract:

In species in which males care for young, testosterone (T) is often high during mating periods but then declines to allow for caregiving of resulting offspring. This model may apply to human males, but past human studies of T and fatherhood have been cross-sectional, making it unclear whether fatherhood suppresses T or if men with lower T are more likely to become fathers. ...Our findings suggest that T mediates tradeoffs between mating and parenting in humans, as seen in other species in which fathers care for young. They also highlight one likely explanation for previously observed health disparities between partnered fathers and single men.

The Divergence of Fatherhood: Feast or Famine

A recent report by Gretchen Livingston and Kim Parker at the Pew Research Center explores the ways that American fatherhood has evolved over the last 50 years, particularly as it relates to the time fathers spend with their children. Since the mid-twentieth century, fatherhood has split in two distinct directions, they say: fathers either spend significantly more time with their kids, or live totally apart from them.

Fathers who live with their children have become more intensely involved in their lives, spending more time with them and taking part in a greater variety of activities. However, the share of fathers who are residing with their children has fallen significantly in the past half century.

In 1960, only 11% of American children lived apart from their fathers. Today, that share has risen to 27%, while the share of children living apart from their mothers has increased only modestly, from 4% in 1960 to 8% in 2010.