Do testosterone declines during the transition to marriage and fatherhood relate to men's sexual behavior? Evidence from the Philippines

Lee T. Gettler*, Thomas McDade, Sonny S. Agustin, Alan B. Feranil, Christopher W Kuzawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

Testosterone (T) is thought to help facilitate trade-offs between mating and parenting in humans. Across diverse cultural settings married men and fathers have lower T than other men and couples' sexual activity often declines during the first years of marriage and after having children. It is unknown whether these behavioral and hormonal changes are related. Here we use longitudinal data from a large study in the Philippines (n. =. 433) to test this model. We show that among unmarried non-fathers at baseline (n. =. 153; age: 21.5. ±. 0.3. years) who became newly married new fathers by follow-up (4.5. years later), those who experienced less pronounced longitudinal declines in T reported more frequent intercourse with their partners at follow-up (p. <. 0.01) compared to men with larger declines in T. Controlling for duration of marriage, findings were similar for men transitioning from unmarried to married (without children) (p. <. 0.05). Men who remained unmarried and childless throughout the study period did not show similar T-sexual activity outcomes. Among newly married new fathers, subjects who had frequent intercourse both before and after the transition to married fatherhood had more modest declines in T compared to peers who had less frequent sex (p. <. 0.001). Our findings are generally consistent with theoretical expectations and cross-species empirical observations regarding the role of T in male life history trade-offs, particularly in species with bi-parental care, and add to evidence that T and sexual activity have bidirectional relationships in human males.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-763
Number of pages9
JournalHormones and Behavior
Volume64
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013

Keywords

  • Challenge hypothesis
  • Hormones and behavior
  • Paternal physiology
  • Psychobiology
  • Reproductive physiology
  • Sexual health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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