Fetuses respond to father's voice but prefer mother's voice after birth

Dev Psychobiol. 2014 Jan;56(1):1-11. doi: 10.1002/dev.21084. Epub 2013 Jul 2.


Fetal and newborn responding to audio-recordings of their father's versus mother's reading a story were examined. At home, fathers read a different story to the fetus each day for 7 days. Subsequently, in the laboratory, continuous fetal heart rate was recorded during a 9 min protocol, including three, 3 min periods: baseline no-sound, voice (mother or father), postvoice no-sound. Following a 20 min delay, the opposite voice was delivered. Newborn head-turning was observed on 20 s trials: three no-sound, three voice (mother or father), three opposite voice, three no-sound trials with the same segment of each parent's recording. Fetuses showed a heart rate increase to both voices which was sustained over the voice period. Consistent with prior reports, newborns showed a preference for their mother's but not their father's voice. The characteristics of voice stimuli that capture fetal attention and elicit a response are yet to be identified.

Keywords: father's voice; fetus; head-turning; heart rate; mother's voice; newborn; perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Fetal Movement / physiology*
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • Heart Rate, Fetal / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Pregnancy
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Voice*