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Monday, December 3, 2012

New Fathers Wired to Stop Chasing Ass (At Least For a Little While)

Posted by on Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 7:50 AM

News from the anthropology department at Northwestern University:

A new Northwestern University study provides compelling evidence that human males are biologically wired to care for their offspring, conclusively showing for the first time that fatherhood lowers a man’s testosterone levels. The effect is consistent with what is observed in many other species in which males help take care of dependent offspring. Testosterone boosts behaviors and other traits that help a male compete for a mate. After they succeed and become fathers, “mating-related” activities may conflict with the responsibilities of fatherhood, making it advantageous for the body to reduce production of the hormone. “Humans are unusual among mammals in that our offspring are dependent upon older individuals for feeding and protection for more than a decade,” said Christopher W. Kuzawa, co-author of the study and associate professor of anthropology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He also is a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern. “Raising human offspring is such an effort that it is cooperative by necessity, and our study shows that human fathers are biologically wired to help with the job.”


“It’s not the case that men with lower testosterone are simply more likely to become fathers,” said Lee Gettler, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Northwestern and co-author of the study. “On the contrary, the men who started with high testosterone were more likely to become fathers, but once they did, their testosterone went down substantially. Our findings suggest that this is especially true for fathers who become the most involved with child care.”

The new study’s findings also suggest that fathers may experience an especially large, but temporary, decline in testosterone when they first bring home a newborn baby. “Fatherhood and the demands of having a newborn baby require many emotional, psychological and physical adjustments,” Gettler said. “Our study indicates that a man’s biology can change substantially to help meet those demands.”

Northwestern's press release doesn't mention exactly when a new father's temporarily lowered testosterone levels bounce back to pre-new-baby, normal-ass-chasing levels, but... I suspect it's well before the kid turns 18.

Via the awesome Alice Dreger's brand new Twitter feed. Says Alice...

And, oops, the study is from 2011. So not news. Still interesting, though!


Comments (50) RSS

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Pope Peabrain 1
My sister was born eleven months after I was. My guess is It doesn't last long.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on December 3, 2012 at 8:03 AM · Report this
seatackled 2

I was thinking the levels rise when the new father has to drive that babysitter home.
Posted by seatackled on December 3, 2012 at 8:21 AM · Report this
I'll wait for the Randomized Controlled Trial.
Posted by BLUE on December 3, 2012 at 8:21 AM · Report this
@1: lower testosterone doesn't mean no sex, just less mate-seeking behavior on average. YMMV.

Might the reduced ass-chasing also make for a more harmonious, newly-procreating couple? She's wiped out from pregnancy, birth, and nursing and he's not playing with the chick in the next cave quite as much.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on December 3, 2012 at 8:31 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 5
@4 I think it's higher stress levels. Stress is a bitch. New responsibilities, new bills, new noises and less sleep. Looks like Will and Kate are about to find out.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on December 3, 2012 at 8:40 AM · Report this
Sigh. Dreger dredges up the old Nature/Nurture false dichotomy. Biological factors interact with environmental ones. Environment effects biological processes, but that doesn't mean that these things are physical, real, and determinative of some behaviors. Everything is performance, blah blah blah, but Mother Nature writes the basic script that individuals then enact, with much variation based on environment and individual variance in biology.
Posted by Chicago Fan on December 3, 2012 at 8:46 AM · Report this
Does owning a cat have the same effect?
Posted by sall on December 3, 2012 at 8:46 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 8
@6 did you mean "...doesn't mean these things are NOT physical..." ?
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on December 3, 2012 at 9:03 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 9

Yeah, it seems (from reading the papers) that a lot of guys go "on a run" after having the kid.

Sex is basically comes down to everyone wants whatever everyone else has...keeping up with the Joneses.

So if one gets a baby, the others all need to have one too. And if the male shows that he is capable of generating one, then they all have to have it as well.

My friend Scott, who was shag machine in college, called this the "dog in a manger" effect.…
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on December 3, 2012 at 9:08 AM · Report this
@6 Huh? The point of my comment was to highlight interactonism -- that it isn't biology OR environment but rather biology + environment. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

And as for it being from 2011, uh, I'm an historian, so that still counts as new. #lameexcuse
Posted by Alice Dreger on December 3, 2012 at 9:14 AM · Report this
Keekee 11
When men get into their 40's, there isn't a whole lot of ass-chasing going on anyhow.
Posted by Keekee on December 3, 2012 at 9:20 AM · Report this
@3, as I understand these things, in order for it to have been published, there had to have been randomized control trials.
Posted by agony on December 3, 2012 at 9:52 AM · Report this
Beetlecat 13
@11 -- are you sure? I find that hard to believe.
Posted by Beetlecat on December 3, 2012 at 10:39 AM · Report this
@11 rotflmao
Posted by EricaP on December 3, 2012 at 10:39 AM · Report this
This can't be right.

They must have made a mistake.

Because here on Slog we know that Single Motherhood is fine, in fact JUST AS GOOD,

and we know here on Slog that Lesbians make the best parents, that two cute chicks (OK. even two beefy butch broads...) are better parents than any woman saddled with a man can be.

We also know, here on Slog; that two guys are JUST AS GOOD as a man married to the mother of his children.

So, we call BullShit.
Posted by please don't try to confuse us here on Slog with Science on December 3, 2012 at 10:54 AM · Report this
Keekee 16
Oh sure, if'n a dude is middle-aged & rich, it's alright, but c'mon! Unless you are of middle-age yourself, do you really want a 45 year old dude chasing your ass?
Posted by Keekee on December 3, 2012 at 10:57 AM · Report this
you're breaking our heart, Keekee.....
Posted by well, maybe. define 'rich'... on December 3, 2012 at 11:01 AM · Report this
venomlash 18
@9:'re misusing the metaphor "dog in a manger", and you're doing a piss-poor job of playing evolutionary psychologist.
Posted by venomlash on December 3, 2012 at 11:05 AM · Report this

?! And your study contains how many participants?
Posted by LaSargenta on December 3, 2012 at 11:09 AM · Report this
smajor82 20
@AliceDreger: if 2 different people can logically interpret something 2 different ways, then it's not really proof - it's evidence.
Posted by smajor82 on December 3, 2012 at 11:10 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 21
@16, You know Keekee, if you had said that a 40 year old woman is completely useless as a sexual being (even something to be feard if it is "on your ass"), this comment thread would be exploding right now.

Perhaps sexism and ageism is not ok, even if you are not the targeted gender or age group?

Posted by Theodore Gorath on December 3, 2012 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 22
Ugh, "feared."

Posted by Theodore Gorath on December 3, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 23
@16: You are clearly young and foolish. At least one of those thing will resolve itself in time. The other... well, hope for the best.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on December 3, 2012 at 11:30 AM · Report this
@16 Keekee

20-ish waifs aren't the only ones with an ass. Nor are they categorically the be-all-end-all for the attraction scale.

Psst, your ageism is showing.
Posted by LaSargenta on December 3, 2012 at 11:38 AM · Report this
Tim Horton 25
New dads are also stressed and exhausted, both of which cause testosterone decline. Mom probably isn't prancing around in a sexually playful manner either. The link doesn't mention whether these were controlled for.

I am sure the rooster would claim causation between his crowing and the sun coming up, but wishful thinking doesn't make it so.
Posted by Tim Horton on December 3, 2012 at 11:50 AM · Report this
Keekee 26

Some folks really want to believe that middle-aged dudes are getting it on all the time. It's almost like they have a personal investment in said belief.

Posted by Keekee on December 3, 2012 at 12:05 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 27
Testosterone is not the smartest hormone around if all it does is make you chase the ass. I guess that's why "close" is good enough for the guys aiming our predator drone missiles.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on December 3, 2012 at 12:11 PM · Report this
@26, or perhaps they get it on with quite a few horny middle-aged dudes and have experience to counter your nonsense?
Posted by EricaP on December 3, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
Oh KeeKee, sweetheart. Check back with us in 25 or so years. Well not 'us'....may of us will probably be dead/ too old to use a computer. But do check back here when you've reach the advanced age of 45. In my experience, REAL hotness and desire doesn't even begin to develop until after 40. You're just playing at it now.
Posted by TheOtherWoman on December 3, 2012 at 2:07 PM · Report this
sissoucat 30
@29 I'd say after 35.

This reminds me that when I was 35, I hooked up with a 53 years-old male, who gave me my first orgasm just by licking my feet. Miaow !
Posted by sissoucat on December 3, 2012 at 3:03 PM · Report this
blip 31
@26 I was fucking guys in their 50s when I was in my 20s. Granted this sort of thing is probably more common for gays but it's not that unusual.
Posted by blip on December 3, 2012 at 3:14 PM · Report this
blip 32
@26 See also: boner pills.
Posted by blip on December 3, 2012 at 3:37 PM · Report this
I'd like to see us study the trigger. For example, compare biological fathers to adoptive fathers. Compare fathers who are significantly active in the care of their child to ones who are not. It raises questions like, if a man takes a job caring for babies, will his testosterone levels be affected?
Posted by uncreative on December 3, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Report this
Keekee 34
Just for the record, Ima thanking that it is a safe assumption that your average Slog contributor's sexual habits do not match up with those of the average middle-aged American male.
Posted by Keekee on December 3, 2012 at 4:37 PM · Report this
Posted by rolando74 on December 3, 2012 at 4:48 PM · Report this
@34, see 32.
Posted by EricaP on December 3, 2012 at 5:37 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 37
@34: I got it. You're not fucking middle aged males, and being the center and entirety of the universe, you are in the perfect position to declare that it doesn't happen.
Posted by aureolaborealis on December 3, 2012 at 5:38 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 38
Age/Youth Troll?
Posted by aureolaborealis on December 3, 2012 at 5:40 PM · Report this
37 ftw
Posted by LaSargenta on December 3, 2012 at 6:43 PM · Report this
Keekee, I'm with you on this. Nobody can tell me forty-plus men are getting as much action as their twenty-year-old counterparts, same woman or different women. Their bodies are declining and so are their testosterone levels (fact). The rare lothario notwithstanding, a middle-age guy will not have the same vigor and lust to offer as a young man. Young ladies know this, they don't generally see middle-age guys as attractive as young guys, and so they expect the middle-age guy to have a little extra to offer ($$). Older people are just not as attractive, I'm sorry. That's not ageism, that's a fact.
Posted by floater on December 3, 2012 at 7:02 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 41
@40: I'm calling mission creep.

Setting that aside, your unspoken assumption is that the frequency and quality of sex that straight men have is entirely dependent on:
a) how much sex they want
b) how many times they are able to ejaculate in a given period of time
c) how attractive 20-year-old women find them

Anyone see any flaws in that?
Posted by aureolaborealis on December 3, 2012 at 7:55 PM · Report this
Wait, wasn't this about testosterone in new dads?
Posted by Ivan on December 3, 2012 at 8:15 PM · Report this
I'd just like to put in here that I'm a 40-year-old woman, and the men of my generation are totally hitting their stride. I liked them a lot before, but now they are really killing it. YUM!
Posted by milkshake on December 3, 2012 at 8:32 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 44
@43: In my twenties I had an affair with a woman in her fifties. At some point she told me she regretted that she would be pushing 80 when I got into my 40s and 50s, because "that's when you're going to get really cool." Like younglings everywhere and probably for always, I had no idea what she was talking about.
Funny that even as I was attracted to and fucking a 50-something woman, I couldn't imagine that I might be attractive when I got that old.
Posted by aureolaborealis on December 3, 2012 at 10:22 PM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 45

"Older people are just not as attractive, I'm sorry. That's not ageism, that's a fact."

What if I said:

"Darker people are just not as attractive, I'm sorry. That's not racism, that's a fact."

See how stupid you are? I know you think (along with Keekee) that you are the center of the universe, and what you find attractive IS objectively attractive, but since you are just one (moronic) person, perhaps that is just your opinion?

Or maybe the worth of people is not just what you decide it is based on their appearance? Maybe?
Posted by Theodore Gorath on December 4, 2012 at 5:21 AM · Report this
OutInBumF 46
In my mid-20's, I was sure there was no sex (or desire) after 40, too, KeeKee. YUCK- who'd want to do it with someone that ancient?! Like watching turtles mate or something. I was looking forward to relief from desire- since it was causing no end of problems in my 20's.
Alas, 40 is over a decade gone, but the desire and its fulfillment sure aren't. Another myth of youth, my dear. I hear tell folks in their 70's and even 80's STILL want the poontang. Beats all, don't it?
Posted by OutInBumF on December 4, 2012 at 9:18 AM · Report this
OutInBumF 47
As for testosterone diminishing at childbirth for dads- it's the stress and anxiety of suddenly being responsible for a helpless human life that kills it, imho. Few dads are prepared for that reality until the kid shows up, then blammo- he's had it. The last thing on the mind is sex. More like sheer terror, but thankfully, that passes after 15-20 years.....
Posted by OutInBumF on December 4, 2012 at 9:23 AM · Report this
48 could anyone do a randomized controlled trial of this? I don't think you could get IRB (ethics committee) clearance to randomized some men into fatherhood and others into childless (childfree)-ness. By necessity this type of research has to be observational. At least it was prospective and they were able to demonstrate that the men had higher testosterone before they became fathers. .
Posted by KN on December 4, 2012 at 1:56 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 49
@3, 48: KN has a point, Best Linear. It is 'Best Linear,' isn't it?
Posted by aureolaborealis on December 4, 2012 at 5:00 PM · Report this
venomlash 50
@48: They could do case controls. Pair up men who have fathered children with those who have not, but are otherwise similar in their medical history, finances, ethnicity, and social class.
Posted by venomlash on December 4, 2012 at 9:18 PM · Report this

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