Absent fathers ‘programme sons to be aggressive adults


Absent fathers ‘programme sons to be aggressive adults’: Study finds boys with no father figure through adolescence tend to have higher testosterone levels as men

  • Absent fathers could be fuelling a vicious cycle by ‘hard- wiring’ their sons to be aggressive adults who are more likely to abandon their own children
  • Boys whose fathers play no role in teen years tend to have higher testosterone 
  • Some studies have found that ‘macho’ men tend to make worse fathers

Absent fathers could be fuelling a vicious cycle by ‘hard- wiring’ their sons to be aggressive adults who are more likely to abandon their own children.

Scientists have found that boys whose fathers play no role as they go through adolescence tend to have higher testosterone levels when they become men.

High testosterone has been linked to aggressiveness, with some studies finding that ‘macho’ men tend to make worse fathers.

Researchers followed almost 1,000 Filipino boys born in the early 1980s through to adulthood, interviewing their mothers about their partners’ involvement when they were bringing up their children in the 1980s and 1990s. They later interviewed the boys – now men – about their family life during childhood and took blood samples to measure testosterone.

Scientists have found that boys whose fathers play no role as they go through adolescence tend to have higher testosterone levels when they become men (File image)

Scientists have found that boys whose fathers play no role as they go through adolescence tend to have higher testosterone levels when they become men (File image)

If a father is present, the researchers suggest, it could result in the son having a less stressful upbringing, which in turn may result in lower testosterone levels during adulthood (File image)

If a father is present, the researchers suggest, it could result in the son having a less stressful upbringing, which in turn may result in lower testosterone levels during adulthood (File image)

The team writes: ‘In this multi-decade study, Filipino sons whose fathers were present and involved with raising them when they were adolescents had lower testosterone when they later became fathers, compared with sons whose fathers were present but uninvolved or were not co-resident.’

They argue that a father’s presence or absence during their son’s adolescence could have a ‘direct, programming effect’ on how the youngster’s brain develops. Parts of the brain are still developing during puberty so an individual can be permanently affected by powerful social forces, such as who is caring for them.

If a father is present, the researchers suggest, it could result in the son having a less stressful upbringing, which in turn may result in lower testosterone levels during adulthood.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was conducted by academics at four US universities – Notre Dame, Michigan, Nebraska, and Johns Hopkins – and San Carlos in the Philippines.

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