The neural mechanisms and consequences of paternal caregiving

Ruth Feldman, Katharina Braun, Frances A. Champagne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


In recent decades, human sociocultural changes have increased the numbers of fathers that are involved in direct caregiving in Western societies. This trend has led to a resurgence of interest in understanding the mechanisms and effects of paternal care. Across the animal kingdom, paternal caregiving has been found to be a highly malleable phenomenon, presenting with great variability among and within species. The emergence of paternal behaviour in a male animal has been shown to be accompanied by substantial neural plasticity and to be shaped by previous and current caregiving experiences, maternal and infant stimuli and ecological conditions. Recent research has allowed us to gain a better understanding of the neural basis of mammalian paternal care, the genomic and circuit-level mechanisms underlying paternal behaviour and the ways in which the subcortical structures that support maternal caregiving have evolved into a global network of parental care. In addition, the behavioural, neural and molecular consequences of paternal caregiving for offspring are becoming increasingly apparent. Future cross-species research on the effects of absence of the father and the transmission of paternal influences across generations may allow research on the neuroscience of fatherhood to impact society at large in a number of important ways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-224
Number of pages20
JournalNature Reviews Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Nature Limited.


The authors thank K. Yirmiya for her editorial assistance and M. Harel for the graphic art. The authors are supported by funding from the German–Israel Foundation (GIF) to R.F. and K.B. (#1114-101.4/2010), the Simms/Mann Chair to R.F., a Harris Foundation Grant to R.F., the Bundesministerium für Forschung und Technik (BMBF) Konsortium ‘TRANSGEN’ (#01KR1304B) to K.B. and the US National Institute of Mental Health (#1P50MH090964-01A1) to F.A.C.

FundersFunder number
German–Israel Foundation1114-101.4/2010
National Institute of Mental Health1P50MH090964-01A1
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung01KR1304B
Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft, Forschung und Technologie


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