Marriage and motherhood are associated with lower testosterone concentrations in women
Emily S Barrett et al.; 2012
Testosterone has been hypothesized to modulate the trade-off between mating and parenting effort in males. Indeed, evidence from humans and other pair-bonded species suggests that fathers and men in committed relationships have lower testosterone levels than single men and men with no children. To date, only one published study has examined testosterone in relation to motherhood, finding that mothers of young children have lower testosterone than non-mothers. Here, we examine this question in 195 reproductive-age Norwegian women. Testosterone was measured in morning serum samples taken during the early follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, and marital and maternal status were assessed by questionnaire. Mothers of young children (age≤3) had 14% lower testosterone than childless women and 19% lower testosterone than women who only had children over age 3. Among mothers, age of the youngest child strongly predicted testosterone levels. There was a trend towards lower testosterone among married women compared to unmarried women. All analyses controlled for body mass index (BMI), age, type of testosterone assay, and time of serum sample collection. This is the first study to look at testosterone concentrations in relation to marriage and motherhood in Western women, and it suggests that testosterone may differ with marital and maternal status in women, providing further corroboration of previous findings in both sexes.