Invited Symposium: Maternal Behaviour



Materials & Methods


Discussion & Conclusion



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Parental Responsiveness in New Parents: Associations Between Hormones, Responses to Infant Cues and Parental Attitudes and Behavior.

Fleming, A (Department of Psychology, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Canada)
Stallings, J (Department of Anthropology, Emory University, USA)
deCatanzaro, J (St. Joseph's Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)
Steiner, M (St. Joseph's Hospital and McMaster University, Canada)
Worthman, C (Department of Anthropology, Emory University, Canada)
Worter, C (Institute of Child Studies, University of Toronto, Ontario)

Contact Person: Alison S. Fleming (fleming@psych.utoronto.ca)


This study explores the relation between post-partum hormones, heart-rate responses, parental attitudes, parental behavior, and responses to infant cries and odors in new parents on day 2 post-partum. New parents were presented with tape recordings of 4 infant cries ( 2 ‘hunger' and 2 ‘pain' cries), odors, cries and odors, or no stimuli and were asked to complete a set of visual analogue scales (VAS) indicating their emotional reactions to the stimuli (eg sympathy, need to respond, irritation, delight, etc.). Heart-rates were monitored throughout the stimulus period and assays for cortisol and testosterone were made based on saliva samples obtained before and after the stimulus period. Parents were also asked to fill out a set of questionnaires relating to feelings about infants, their infant, social relationships, etc. and were observed interacting with their infants for a 20 minute period. The primary results show that for mothers, both heart-rate and cortisol levels were significantly and positively associated with greater sympathy to infant cries at the baseline period and that mothers with greater sympathy, as opposed with less sympathy (by median split) showed a significantly different pattern of change in cortisol levels across the cry-stimulus period (from baseline to 40 minutes after the stimulus period). Mothers' cortisol levels were also positively and significantly associated with the extent of differential sympathy experienced by mothers when presented with pain versus hunger cries. In comparison to mothers, fathers responded more negatively to infants cries, although they showed the same level of a ‘need to respond' to the cry stimuli. In contrast to mothers, hormones were not associated with their ‘sympathetic' responses; they were associated with ‘need to respond'. Consistent with other species showing biparental care, fathers who felt a greater ‘need to respond' to the infant cries had significantly lower levels of salivary testosterone. These and other results relating to the endocrinology of parental responsiveness in humans will be discussed.

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Presentation Number SAfleming0875
Keywords: infant cries, cortisol, testosterone, new parents, parental behavior

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Fleming, A; Stallings, J; deCatanzaro, J; Steiner, M; Worthman, C; Worter, C; (1998). Parental Responsiveness in New Parents: Associations Between Hormones, Responses to Infant Cues and Parental Attitudes and Behavior.. Presented at INABIS '98 - 5th Internet World Congress on Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University, Canada, Dec 7-16th. Invited Symposium. Available at URL http://www.mcmaster.ca/inabis98/cruzrdelcerro/fleming0875/index.html
© 1998 Author(s) Hold Copyright