The neurobiology of fatherhood

Curr Opin Psychol. 2017 Jun;15:26-32. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.02.013. Epub 2017 Feb 20.


Only about 5% of mammalian species exhibit paternal caregiving in nature, and paternal behavior has evolved multiple times independently among mammals. The most parsimonious way to evolve paternal behavior may be to utilize pre-existing neural systems that are in place for maternal behavior. Despite evidence for similarity in the neurobiology of maternal and paternal behavior in rodents, paternal behavior also has its own dedicated neural circuitry in some species. Human fathers engage conserved subcortical systems that motivate caregiving in rodent parents and human mothers, as well as cortical systems involved with empathy that they share with human mothers. Finally, paternal behavior is modulated by similar hormones and neuropeptides in rodents, non-human primates, and humans.

Publication types

  • Review