This Love Hormone Could Predict Whether Mom And Dad Stay Together

Published: 02/11/2016 10:35 AM EST on LiveScience

A hormone known for its role in bonding and caregiving could predict whether new moms and dads stay together in the first years of their child’s life.

Researchers found a link between low oxytocin levels in the mother during pregnancy and shortly after the baby’s birth and the likelihood that new parents would break up by the time their child was 2 1/2 years old, according to the results, presented Jan. 29 at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in San Diego.

“What these data suggest is that lower maternal oxytocin levels are associated with the risk of relationship dissolution by the time the child is a toddler,” study researcher Jennifer Bartz, a psychologist at McGill University in Canada, told an audience at the meeting.

“Suggest” is a key word. The research has yet to be peer-reviewed and published in a journal, Bartz told Live Science, and the total number of breakups among the couples in the study was small.

Nevertheless, the research hints at how hormones might influence relationships, perhaps by altering how people cope with stress or handle caregiving, Bartz said.

“Ideally, the point of using neuroscience methods is, what we know about the biological processes can then deepen our understanding of the psychological processes,” Bartz told Live Science. [11 Interesting Effects of Oxytocin]

Oxytocin’s predictive power

Oxytocin is a powerful molecule, well known for promoting social bonding in animals. And research on humans has found that this hormone affects both parenting behavior and caring for the offspring of others, Bartz said.

In the new study, Bartz and her colleagues collected saliva samples from 341 pregnant women during their first trimester of pregnancy, in the third trimester and then seven to nine weeks after they gave birth. Then, they followed up with —> Read More