Prolactin and oxytocin, hormones thought only to be secreted by loving mothers, have recently turned up in a wildly unexpected place – the blood and saliva of new dads! A study recently published by Prof. 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 University School of Medicine) shows that the ‘love drugs’ moms regularly get high on (oxytocin is secreted during pregnancy, and prolactin later on to increase milk supply) work on dads too . . . albeit in a different way.
During the study–which observed attentiveness, physical contact, communication, and affection–dads with greater measured levels of prolactin engaged their infants in constructive play, while oxytocin catalyzed stronger social bonds between father and child. “Hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin,” says Prof. Feldman, “have a significant role in establishing a sense of fatherhood during the infant’s first growth stages.”
So, besides the relatively small sample size used by Prof. Feldman, why hasn’t this study garnered more press? Maybe a world filled with softy dads just isn’t that sexy.