BACKGROUND: Previous research has mostly focused on the hormonal, behavioral and neural correlates of maternal caregiving. We present a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled within-subject design to examine the effects of intranasal administration of oxytocin and vasopressin on parenting behavior and the neural and behavioral responses to infant cry sounds and infant threat. In addition, we will test whether effects of oxytocin and vasopressin administration are moderated by fathers' early childhood experiences. METHODS: Fifty-five first-time fathers of a child between two and seven months old will participate in three experimental sessions with intervening periods of one to two weeks. Participants self-administer oxytocin, vasopressin or a placebo. Infant-father interactions and protective parenting responses are observed during play. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is used to examine the neural processing of infant cry sounds and infant threat. A handgrip dynamometer is used to measure use of handgrip force when listening to infant cry sounds. Participants report on their childhood experiences of parental love-withdrawal and abuse and neglect. DISCUSSION: The results of this study will provide important insights into the hormonal, behavioral and neural correlates of fathers' parenting behavior during the early phase of fatherhood. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Dutch Trial Register: NTR (ID: NL8124); Date registered: October 30, 2019.

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Keywords Fathers, fMRI, Oxytocin, Parenting, Vasopressin
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Journal BMC psychology
Witte, A.M. (Annemieke M.), de Moor, M.H.M. (Marleen H M), van IJzendoorn, M.H, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J. (2019). Fathers today: design of a randomized controlled trial examining the role of oxytocin and vasopressin in behavioral and neural responses to infant signals. BMC psychology, 7(1). doi:10.1186/s40359-019-0356-2