The New York Times recently had a really interesting article on a testosterone study done on men. The study reported that testosterone in men who became fathers was lower than single men, and the more time men spent with their children the lower their testosterone dropped. WOW!
So if I were a guy, my immediate natural reaction would no doubt be “argghhh. No way am I spending more time with my kids. I need my testosterone.” And I’m assuming that was other people’s reaction because, under the header of “me thinks the lady doth protest too much,” the Times argued mightily — but frankly illogically — that the conclusion should be different. “The real take-home message,” said Peter Ellison, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard who was not involved in the study, is that “male parental care is important. It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men.”
That strikes me as a rather illogical conclusion. If men’s bodies changed before they had kids and that made them want to stay home with the kids, one could make that argument, but this sounds more like biology follows the decision. Once a man has decided to become a father, his body shifts to support his decision. But that’s a lovely thought on its own so I suppose I shouldn’t split hairs. I love the idea that biology will help support your decisions, like a woman who decides to become a mother and becomes pregnant, her body shifts and changes to make that possible. These changes in men are obviously more subtle, but seem similar. Especially since the males with higher testosterone were most likely to find a mate and get married. “Scientists say this suggests a biological trade-off, with high testosterone helping secure a mate, but reduced testosterone better for sustaining family life.”
Much more interesting to me is the fact that the study “suggests that men’s behavior can affect hormonal signals their bodies send, not just that hormones influence behavior.” Hell yes!! Once more we are seeing the fine line between what we think of as “in your head” and “in your body.” So hormones work both ways and testosterone is affected by our behavior. How great for us to see in studies what seems clear to so many of us in this field. When you’re having more sex, you want more sex. When you meet someone new, something hormonal shifts and your gears are up and running.
As we understand more and more about hormones, how our behavior affects the hormones and how the hormones affect our behavior, maybe some of the mysteries of the world (why, for example, my husband can’t multitask) will be answered once and for all.