Taming The Beast

The old fogies whose job it is to advise, are still advising young men that they should settle down and raise a family. Mostly, we humans accept that raising kids has to be a cooperative process and get on and help as best they can. The whole process of falling in love and then raising a family involves a major change in activity.

But it is made easier for us guys to make the changes. We don’t have to fight the testosterone as much as we fear before we set about this sort of enterprise. Gettler et al in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (1) have followed the testosterone levels in a large number of young men in the Philippines and compared their levels before and after they’ve settled down to raise kids. They show that there is a large drop in testosterone by a quarter to a third on getting a partner and producing a child.

These authors put this taming of the beast down to fatherhood and this news has been bouncing around the blogosphere in the last couple of days, but an Italian team from the U of Pisa (2) pointed out that fatherhood is not required to lower a guy’s testosterone level. They showed that falling in love was all that is required for him to become as quiet as a lamb.

Their results were very interesting as the showed that the men’s T-level dropped while the women’s T-level rose. Yes, interesting, when one thinks about the action of testosterone on our social behavior.

The study showed that the effect of love (on their T-levels) had worn off after a year – just in time for the fatherhood lever to come into play to drop the level and keep him from risky behavior. This hormonal change on becoming a dad was originally identified as early as 2001 (3), but it’s nice to see it being confirmed again.

  1. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/09/02/1105403108.abstract
  2. D.Marazzati and D.Canale, Psychoneurendocrinology, 29, 931, (2004).
  3. S.J.Berg and K.E.Wynne-Edwards, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 76, 582, (2001).

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