The Neural Basis of Human Fatherhood: A Unique Biocultural Perspective on Plasticity of Brain and Behavior

Eyal Abraham, Ruth Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

With the growing involvement of fathers in childrearing and the application of neuroscientific tools to research on parenting, there is a need to understand how a father's brain and neurohormonal systems accommodate the transition to parenthood and how such neurobiological changes impact children's mental health, sociality, and family functioning. In this paper, we present a theoretical model on the human father’s brain and the neural adaptations that take place when fathers assume an involved role. The neurobiology of fatherhood shows great variability across individuals, societies, and cultures and is shaped to a great extent by bottom-up caregiving experiences and the amount of childrearing responsibilities. Mechanisms of mother-father coparental brain coordination and hormonal correlates of paternal behavior are detailed. Adaptations in the father’s brain during pregnancy and across the postpartum year carry long-term implications for children's emotion regulation, stress management, and symptom formation. We propose a new conceptual model of HEALthy Father Brain that describes how a father’s brain serves as a source of resilience in the context of family adversity and its capacity to “heal”, protect, and foster social brain maturation and functionality in family members via paternal sensitivity, attunement, and support, which, in turn, promote child development and healthy family functioning. Father’s brain provides a unique model on neural plasticity as sustained by committed acts of caregiving, thereby affording a novel perspective on the brain basis of human affiliation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-109
Number of pages17
JournalClinical Child and Family Psychology Review
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • Child development
  • Father-child relationship
  • Fatherhood
  • Paternal brain
  • Paternal care

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