Exploring the role of endocrine factors in sensitive parenting in men

A. M. Lotz*, R. S.M. Buisman, K. Alyousefi-van Dijk, A. M. Witte, M. J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. W.F.T. Verhees

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Parental sensitivity has been studied extensively in parenting research. Recently, there has been increasing attention to endocrine factors that may be related to parental sensitivity, such as oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, and cortisol. Although hormones do not act in isolation, few studies integrated multiple hormones and examined their combined associations with parental sensitivity. The current study aimed to explore the hormonal correlates of paternal sensitivity by examining in 79 first-time fathers of young infants (2–4 months old) (1) the separate and combined associations of basal oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, and cortisol levels with sensitivity, and (2) the associations between paternal sensitivity and oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, and cortisol reactivity following father-infant interactions. We additionally explored whether interactions between the various basal hormone levels could predict paternal sensitivity. Saliva for the quantification of fathers' hormone levels was sampled before and after an interaction with their infant to determine basal levels and reactivity. Results revealed no significant associations between sensitivity and basal hormone levels or reactivity. However, results indicated that cortisol and testosterone interacted in their effects on paternal sensitive parenting. Namely, fathers with low basal cortisol levels showed more sensitivity with increasing T levels, but fathers with high cortisol levels were less sensitive with increasing T levels. However, it should be noted that the latter slope was not significantly different from zero. These findings suggest that variations in parental sensitivity might be better explained by interactions between hormones than by single hormone levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105118
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalHormones and Behavior
Early online date1 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a European Research Council grant (grant number AdG 669249 , 2015) awarded to MJB-K.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


This study was supported by a European Research Council grant (grant number AdG 669249 , 2015) awarded to MJB-K.

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme669249
European Research Council


    • Cortisol
    • Fathers
    • Oxytocin
    • Sensitivity
    • Testosterone
    • Vasopressin


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