Prolactin, Oxytocin, and the development of paternal behavior across the first six months of fatherhood

Horm Behav. 2010 Aug;58(3):513-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2010.04.007. Epub 2010 Apr 24.


Animal studies have implicated the neuropeptides Prolactin (PRL) and Oxytocin (OT) in processes of maternal bonding and PRL has similarly been shown to play a role in the neurophysiology of fatherhood. Yet, very little is known on the involvement of PRL and OT in human fathering. Forty-three fathers and their firstborn infant were seen twice: in the second and sixth postpartum months. Paternal plasma PRL and OT were sampled at both time-points and analyzed with ELISA methods. At six months fathers were videotaped interacting with their child in social and exploratory play contexts and interactions were micro-analyzed for father-infant Affect Synchrony and father facilitation of child toy exploration. PRL and OT showed high individual stability across time and were correlated at the second observation. PRL was related to father-infant Coordinated Exploratory Play in the toy context whereas OT was associated with father-infant Affect Synchrony in the social context. Results point to the role of PRL and OT in the development of human fathering and underscore their differential relations with patterns of paternal care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Father-Child Relations*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Oxytocin / blood*
  • Paternal Behavior*
  • Play and Playthings
  • Prolactin / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxytocin
  • Prolactin