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Father Trials: Hormonal and Behavioral Experiments on Prenatal and Postnatal Parenting

Objective

Fathers have largely been neglected in parenting research -- although they constitute about 50% of parents. The aim of the proposed project is to test the hypothesis that fathers’ parenting is under hormonal control and can be changed by behavioral and hormonal interventions. I propose a series of randomized controlled trials (RCT) focusing on a critical phase of parenthood: the transition to having the first baby. I will test whether experiments that modulate oxytocin and testosterone levels enhance fathers’ neural processing of infant signals and of threats to the infant and stimulate fathers’ parenting quality and involvement in parenting.

Drawing firm conclusions about the neural and hormonal basis of human parenting is critically dependent on RCTs. I propose two types of experiments: (1) within-subject trials, using nasal administration of oxytocin, testosterone, and a placebo, and (2) between-subject trials, using behavioral interventions aimed at promoting sensitive parenting and physical contact. The behavioral interventions include prenatal and postnatal video feedback intervention (in the prenatal phase based on ultrasound scans) and the use of soft baby carriers. Both types of trials take place 3 months before the infant’s birth, and 2 and 7 months afterwards.

A special focus lies on the aspect of protection: a dimension of parenting that has received considerable attention in animal research but, despite its evolutionary importance, not in studies on humans. Testing the efficacy of the behavioral experiments in boosting fathers’ protective parenting and participation in caregiving activities has clear practical significance (for fathers, mothers, children, and society). At the same time, examining the hormonal and neural mechanisms is crucial for the development of theory on the interplay between neuroscience and parenting.

Field of science

  • /medical and health sciences/clinical medicine/obstetrics and gynaecology/obstetrics/postnatal

Call for proposal

ERC-2014-ADG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-ADG - Advanced Grant

Host institution

STICHTING VU
Address
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
Netherlands
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 721 992,61

Beneficiaries (2)

STICHTING VU
Netherlands
EU contribution
€ 1 721 992,61
Address
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
UNIVERSITEIT LEIDEN

Participation ended

Netherlands
EU contribution
€ 738 507,39
Address
Rapenburg 70
2311 EZ Leiden
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments