Modeling dad: animal models of paternal behavior

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010 Mar;34(3):438-51. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.08.010. Epub 2009 Sep 8.


In humans, paternal behaviors have a strong influence on the emotional and social development of children. Fathers, more frequently than mothers, leave the family nucleus, and/or become abusive, leading to offspring that are more likely to grow under stressful conditions and greater susceptibility to abnormal health and social outcomes. Literature on parental behaviors, human or animal, has primarily focused on the interactions between mothers and offspring, with little research directed at understanding paternal behavior. In animal studies, experimenters correlate paternal behaviors with those seen in rodent or primate mothers, often under situations in which behaviors such as nest protection, huddling, pup grooming, and retrieval are artificially induced. In humans, the majority of the studies have looked at paralleling hormonal changes in fathers with those occurring in mothers, or observed paternal behaviors in populations with specific anthropological backgrounds. These studies reveal commonalities in parental behaviors and their underlying neural circuits. However, this work highlights the possibility that paternal behavior has components that are strictly masculine with unique neurobiological mechanisms. This review summarizes this information and provides a current view of a topic that needs further exploration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Father-Child Relations
  • Fathers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Paternal Behavior*