The science is settled Mothers DON'T have stronger…

The science is settled: Mothers DON’T have stronger bonds with their children than fathers

Some will argue that a superior ‘maternal instinct’ is part of a woman’s biology. But do pregnancy, hormones or parenting experiences really create a stronger bond? Let’s take a look at the scientific evidence.

Some scholars argue that the relationship between parents and children can begin before birth. They claim that such ‘antenatal bonding’ – feeling connected to the unborn baby – is an important predictor of the infant-mother relationship. However, the actual evidence linking feelings about the baby during pregnancy with postnatal behaviour is inconsistent, so it’s not clear how – or even if – such feelings influence later relationships. But even if it is shown to be the case, another problem is that most of the research in this area has been conducted with mothers.

We are now also starting to understand that fathers develop antenatal relationships too. It is also clear that not having the experience of pregnancy at all doesn’t mean that later relationships are compromised – as those who have adopted a child or started a family through surrogacy arrangements know…

Oxytocin, commonly heralded as the bonding hormone, is known to be released in large amounts during birth and breastfeeding to help regulate maternal bonding in mammals. There are, however, differences between mothers and fathers in the types of interaction that seems to produce these rises in oxytocin. For mothers, it is behaviours such as baby-talk, staring into the baby’s eyes and affectionate touch. For fathers, playful touch and behaviour – such as moving their baby around or presenting objects – seem to produce the rise in oxytocin levels.