Longitudinal evidence that fatherhood decreases testosterone in human males

Edited by A. E. Storey, Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NF, Canada, and accepted by the Editorial Board July 28, 2011 (received for review May 10, 2011)
September 12, 2011
108 (39) 16194-16199
Commentary
The descent of a man's testosterone
Peter B. Gray

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. Here, we use a large representative study in the Philippines (n = 624) to show that among single nonfathers at baseline (2005) (21.5 ± 0.3 y), men with high waking T were more likely to become partnered fathers by the time of follow-up 4.5 y later (P < 0.05). Men who became partnered fathers then experienced large declines in waking (median: −26%) and evening (median: −34%) T, which were significantly greater than declines in single nonfathers (P < 0.001). Consistent with the hypothesis that child interaction suppresses T, fathers reporting 3 h or more of daily childcare had lower T at follow-up compared with fathers not involved in care (P < 0.05). Using longitudinal data, these findings show that T and reproductive strategy have bidirectional relationships in human males, with high T predicting subsequent mating success but then declining rapidly after men 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.

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Acknowledgments

Linda Adair played a central role in designing and implementing the CLHNS survey from which these data and samples were obtained. Greg Duncan provided statistical advice. Jeffrey Huang helped with laboratory work. We thank the Office of Population Studies, University of San Carlos, Cebu, Philippines, for its role in study design and data collection and the Filipino participants who provided their time for this study. This work was supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation (Grants 7356 and 8186), National Science Foundation (Grants BCS-0542182 and BCS-0962212), Interdisciplinary Obesity Center (Grant RR20649), and Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility (Grant ES10126; Project 7-2004-E). L.T.G. was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship during write-up.

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 108 | No. 39
September 27, 2011
PubMed: 21911391

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: September 12, 2011
Published in issue: September 27, 2011

Keywords

  1. challenge hypothesis
  2. human evolution
  3. hormones and behavior
  4. paternal care
  5. reproductive ecology

Acknowledgments

Linda Adair played a central role in designing and implementing the CLHNS survey from which these data and samples were obtained. Greg Duncan provided statistical advice. Jeffrey Huang helped with laboratory work. We thank the Office of Population Studies, University of San Carlos, Cebu, Philippines, for its role in study design and data collection and the Filipino participants who provided their time for this study. This work was supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation (Grants 7356 and 8186), National Science Foundation (Grants BCS-0542182 and BCS-0962212), Interdisciplinary Obesity Center (Grant RR20649), and Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility (Grant ES10126; Project 7-2004-E). L.T.G. was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship during write-up.

Notes

See Commentary on page 16141.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. A.E.S. is a guest editor invited by the Editorial Board.

Authors

Affiliations

Lee T. Gettler2,1 [email protected]
Department of Anthropology, and
Cells to Society, Center on Social Disparities and Health, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208; and
Thomas W. McDade
Department of Anthropology, and
Cells to Society, Center on Social Disparities and Health, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208; and
Alan B. Feranil
Office of Population Studies Foundation, University of San Carlos, Cebu City 6000, Philippines
Christopher W. Kuzawa2,1 [email protected]
Department of Anthropology, and
Cells to Society, Center on Social Disparities and Health, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208; and

Notes

2
To whom correspondence may be addressed. E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected].
Author contributions: L.T.G., A.B.F., and C.W.K. designed research; L.T.G., T.W.M., A.B.F., and C.W.K. performed research; L.T.G. and C.W.K. analyzed data; and L.T.G., T.W.M., A.B.F., and C.W.K. wrote the paper.
1
L.T.G. and C.W.K. contributed equally to this work.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Longitudinal evidence that fatherhood decreases testosterone in human males
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 108
    • No. 39
    • pp. 16135-16481

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