After conducting a series of studies, researchers in Israel have found an increase in hormone levels in fathers of newborns. The fathers who participated in the study secreted two types of hormones that helped to strengthen their bonds with their babies.
The two hormones that were isolated for the study were oxytocin and prolactin. Its has been widely accepted that mothers of newborns also secrete these two hormones. Oxytocin is secreted during pregnancy and it is believed that the prolactin hormone increases milk production within the first couple months after birth.
Professor Ruth Feldman, a psychologist and brain scientist at the Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center at Bar-Ilan University and adjunct professor at the Child Study Center at Yale, conducted the study which involved measuring the levels of oxytocin and prolactin in the blood and saliva of fathers, at two separate intervals two and six months after the birth of their baby. The dads were also observed while interacting with their baby playing a series of social games. The interactions between the father and baby were tracked by recording glances at the child, demonstration of affection, sounds the child made, physical contact (e.g. hugs, kisses), and touching the babies body, hands and feet. Fathers that had a higher level of prolactin were more likely to interact with their baby’s by playing investigative games designed to peak the baby’s curiosity. Fathers with higher levels of oxytocin were more likely to interact with their baby’s by establishing strong social connections.
“Hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin have a significant role in establishing a sense of fatherhood during the infant’s first growth stages”.
Another study conducted by Professor Feldman revealed that interaction (playing) with a baby for up to fifteen minutes increased the level of oxytocin in both males and females. However, females experienced the increase in oxytocin while engaging in loving physical contract with the baby, were as males oxytocin levels increased when encouraging the baby to explore by using stimulating touch.
Feldman also recorded the level of oxytocin within the infants from age four to six months while engaged in play with a parent and also found that hormone levels increased.
She believes that as a result of her study the use of coordinated interactions between the baby and parent help to develop close relationships allowing the baby to develop feelings of empathy, understand feeling of others, and the ability to trust others. – Jeff, Staff Writer
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