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