Several studies have shown that mothers and fathers have significant lower levels of testosterone (T) than non-mothers and non-fathers, and that in men caregiving is related to a decrease in T. To date, only a few studies have examined T in women. We examined T reactivity to a crying infant simulator in 160 women. Use of oral contraceptives (OC), basal cortisol (CORT) levels and childhood experiences of maternal love withdrawal were taken into account. T levels were consistently significantly higher in women not using OC. In women not using OC, high basal CORT was related to higher initial T levels and larger decreases of T during caregiving. No effect of basal CORT was found in women with OC use. Childhood experiences of maternal love withdrawal did not affect T levels. This is the first study to show support for a decrease of T in women while taking care of a crying infant, supporting the Challenge hypothesis and the Steroid/Peptide Theory of Social Bonds.

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Infant Behavior and Development
Department of Psychology

Voorthuis, A. (A.), Bakermans-Kranenburg, M., & van IJzendoorn, R. (2017). Testosterone reactivity to infant crying and caregiving in women: The role of oral contraceptives and basal cortisol. Infant Behavior and Development. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.08.002