Research press release


Nature Communications

Neuroscience: Fathers wade in on maternal instinct theories


親が子の泣き声の個別的特徴を判別する能力は、それぞれの子に適合した世話をしやすくするうえで1つの役割を果たしている。母性本能仮説によれば、母親は父親よりもこうした判別能力が高いとされる。しかし、これまでは、母親のみを調べる研究や父親と母親が赤ん坊と過ごした時間を考慮しない研究が行われていた。今回、Nicolas Mathevonたちは、フランスとコンゴ民主共和国のヒト被験者の対照研究を行った。この研究で、自分の赤ん坊と他の同年齢の赤ん坊の泣き声を比較して、自分の赤ん坊の泣き声を認識する能力を評価した。その結果、泣き声から自分の赤ん坊を認識する能力は、父親と母親が同等で、この能力に影響を及ぼす唯一の非常に重要な要因は、親が自分の赤ん坊と過ごした時間だったことが明らかになった。


Fathers can be as good as mothers at recognizing the cries of their offspring, reports a study in Nature Communications this week. These findings go against the commonly held belief that mothers are better at recognizing their own infant’s vocalisations than fathers.

The ability of parents to identify individual characteristics of their offspring’s cries plays a role in facilitating the provision of adapted care. According to maternal instinct hypotheses, mothers should be better than fathers in performing these tasks. However, previous studies have either focussed solely on the on mothers, or have not controlled for the amount of time spent by parents of either sex with their baby. Nicolas Mathevon and colleagues carry out a controlled study in human subjects from France and the Democratic Republic of Congo whereby they assess parents’ ability to recognize their own baby on the basis of their cries, against the cries of other babies of the same age. They find that both fathers and mothers can equally recognize their own baby from their cries, and that the only crucial factor affecting this ability is the amount of time spent by the parent with their own baby.

The authors conclude that experience, rather than sex-specific innate predispositions, are important in determining a parent’s ability to recognize their own baby on the basis of their cries. They hope that this study will provide a basis for establishing how a wider range of variables affect recognition skills, and whether they similarly affect parents of both sexes.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms2713

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