Effects of oxytocin and vasopressin administration on human fathers' sensitive and challenging parenting: A randomized within-subject controlled trial

Annemieke M Witte, Marleen H M de Moor, Mirjana Majdandžić, Martine W F T Verhees, Marinus H van IJzendoorn, Marian J Bakermans-Kranenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled within-subject study examined the effects of intranasal administration of oxytocin and vasopressin on fathers' sensitive and challenging parenting behaviors. Furthermore, we examined the moderating role of fathers' early childhood experiences. The sample consisted of 70 fathers with their 2- to 12-month-old infants. All fathers were assigned to each of the three experimental sessions (oxytocin, vasopressin, and placebo), on three separate days, with random order and intervening periods of one to two weeks. Sensitive and challenging parenting behaviors (CPB) were observed during a 10-minute free play task. Results showed no effects of vasopressin administration on paternal sensitivity. Fathers in the oxytocin condition were less sensitive than fathers in the placebo condition, and this effect was moderated by fathers' own childhood experiences: Fathers who reported higher levels of experienced parental love withdrawal were less sensitive in the oxytocin condition as compared to the placebo condition, whereas fathers with less experienced parental love withdrawal showed no difference in sensitivity between the oxytocin and placebo condition. No effects were found of oxytocin and vasopressin administration on fathers' CPB. Our results, although partly unexpected, are largely in line with previous literature showing that oxytocin administration can exert negative effects in individuals with adverse childhood experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105175
Pages (from-to)105175
JournalHormones and Behavior
Volume142
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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