Effects of Marriage and Fatherhood on Men

Some of you might remember this from my talk last week, but I decided to post it so that everyone could have a chance to see it.

There are many changes that marriage and fatherhood have on men, but overall, these changes make men more docile in social situations while also increasing their ability to understand and connect with others emotionally. This is because their social need to impress lessens, they feel less threatened by other males, they find it easier to communicating and dealing with their own emotions, they form stronger bonds, and they find it easier to sympathize.All of these changes are directly linked to the way that the brain handles and processes social situations. In short, these changes in social cognition are due to, a decreased displaying of competitive abilities, a lowered rate of violent manifestation, and an increase in sensitivity and emotional awareness. These changes come about slowly, and are all linked to either a psychological, hormonal, or structural brain changes.

Social displays of competitive ability are seen as a way to display the masculine potential of a man, and is intended to attract women. These competitive abilities can range from intellectual prowess to criminal activities. However, it is no longer necessary for a married man to socially display his competitive abilities. This leads to a more moderate behaviour than seen in single men. This excerpt from Kanazawa’s study is useful to understand how they came by this result.

“The biographies of 280 scientists indicate that the distribution of their age at the time of their greatest scientific contributions in their careers (age–genius curve) is similar to the age distribution of criminals (age–crime curve). The age–genius curves among jazz musicians, painters and authors are also similar to the age–crime curve. Further, marriage has a strong desistance effect on both crime and genius. I argue that this is because both crime and genius stem from mens evolved psychological mechanism which compels them to be highly competitive in early adulthood but ‘‘turns off’’ when they get married….” (Kanazawa, 2003)

This change in social behaviour is psychological and is believed to be brought about from the different needs between married and single men.

The violent tendencies of males are also curbed by marriage, this is shown by the fact that the rate of men who commit criminal acts is lower by 35% than that of unmarried men from the same risk category. This is directly linked with a drop in testosterone levels in married men. The association of marriage with lower crime among men has been widely reported in both quantitative and qualitative studies in the meta-analysis study (Sampson et al., 2006). This testosterone level drop is even lower in men who become fathers (Kanazawa, 2003 and Sampson et al., 2006), and is a further catalyst for changes in how the brain processes social behaviour.

In men who become fathers there is also a significant change in the biochemical aspects of the brain. A growth of grey matter in the amygdala, striatum, hypothalamus and lateral prefrontal cortex take place in subjects who were tested though an fMRI and MRI before and after having a child (Kim et al., 2014). This change also takes place in homosexual men who adopt children, so it is not linked to any other changes that might come from becoming a father and is solely due to caring for a child. These changes make fathers more empathetic, more sensitive, and more forgiving in social interactions. This allows men to form closer bonds, which is especially important with children.

In conclusion, these three social cognition changes are directly linked to marriage and fatherhood in men. They change how men interpret social situations in different ways and lead to the behaviour previously mentioned above. My only problem I had with the articles I used and sources was the fact that none of the articles took into account the fact that men had less free time after getting married or having children, and that this could all just be a result of less free time. I do not believe that this alone is enough to dismiss the results from these studies; however, in the future we may want to look into this possibility with more studies or meta-analysis.


  1. Kanazawa in 2003 “crime-genius connection”
  3. Kim et al., 2014 “Neural plasticity in fathers of human infants”

6 thoughts on “Effects of Marriage and Fatherhood on Men

  1. I found an article that explores the differences between the reality and expectations of fatherhood in a British setting. The article explores social complications with fatherhood, and a social focus on males to perform financially for the family, their partners, their children, and themselves. I think some of the points raised in this article would help you add to the study you’ve done so far on the social role of the rather!

    Machin, A. J. (2015). Mind the gap: The expectation and reality of involved fatherhood. Fathering, 13(1), 36.


    • Hey thanks for the response, I read the article and I found it very interesting! The study did a very good job of getting men from all different ages and from all different education backgrounds. However, I was a little concerned that they only used 15 different individuals and didn’t specify their cultural background. I found it interesting that the men thought that they should have just as big of a role in the emotional parenting part of raising a child as their spouse. I also found it interesting that men thought that their most important role was being a role model, and that financial care was one the lowest on the list.


  2. This is a really interesting topic. Lower testosterone in married men makes sense in my mind because they definitely have less of a need to compete now that they have a mate. I found this article that agrees with your blog post, and I found an additional interesting finding in it. The researchers tested the testosterone is married vs unmarried men, and found the same result the studies you looked at did; that married men have lower testosterone levels. The additional finding though that I found interesting is that the married men had lower levels of testosterone after being with their wives all day. So, after a day off with their wives their testosterone was at an all time low, versus spending a day at work. To me this also makes sense because there is less competition at home while hanging out with your wife in a relaxed environment, but there is more competition at work.

    Gray, P. B., Kahlenberg, S. M., Barrett, E. S., Lipson, S. F., & Ellison, P. T. (2002). Marriage and fatherhood are associated with lower testosterone in males. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23(3), 193-201.


    • Hi thanks for you reply, I found this article very interesting. It would be a very good addition to my blog sources. I did fid it interesting that they only used around 50 different participants in the study, however, and that they only took men from Boston. Also the fact that higher testosterone levels were found at work could also mean that work just increases mens testosterone. Theres another interesting article about women’s testosterone that I think you might like if you are interested to further research the subject. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3540120/


  3. I found this argument your article talks about fascinating. It brought up some good points to as why married men changes so much after becoming a family man. These changes are crucial for them to adapt to their new environment of restless vigilance for their own fragile offspring, changing dippers, feeding, playing, being alert to every flicker of emotion on their tiny face, every cry and hiccup. I found a interesting article collaborates your topic. It suggests that any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad. The author touches on discussions about the myths of parenthood. The most popular of them implies that once you’re married you can say bye bye to your alone time. Just thought that was interesting.



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