Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of



Lee T. Gettler

Date of this Version



American Journal of Human Biology 30:6 (November/December 2018), e23150.

doi: 10.1002/ajhb.23150


Copyright © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Used by permission.


Objectives: Research on the psychobiology of partnering and fathering has focused on testosterone (T), oxytocin, and prolactin (PRL) as mechanisms that potentially mediate life history trade-offs related to those roles. Less is known about other hormones that might be responsive to life history transitions and implicated in fathering, such as estradiol (E2). We examined how E2 changed during the transition to marriage and fatherhood, its correlation with fathers’ caregiving, and its joint within-individual production with other hormones (T, PRL). Methods: Data were collected from a total of 913 Filipino men (aged 25.9 years ± 0.3 SD at follow-up) enrolled in a longitudinal cohort study. Morning saliva samples collected at baseline (2005) and follow-up (2009) were assayed for T and E2 (n = 329), dried blood spots from baseline were assayed for PRL. Fathers reported on caregiving in 2009. Results: When compared with men who remained single non-fathers over the study period, men who became married residential fathers experienced larger declines in E2. This effect was non-significant when we controlled for longitudinal changes in T. E2 was not significantly related to fathers’ caregiving, controlling for T. In cross-sectional analyses for PRL, T, and E2, married residential fathers exhibited within-individual profiles of reduced T and elevated PRL, whereas single non-fathers exhibited the opposite profile of elevated T and reduced PRL. Conclusions: Our findings point to the need for future research to consider the mutually regulatory dynamics and/or combinatorial implications of multiple physiological axes acting within individuals to underpin life history trade-offs and behavioral strategies.