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Fathers are just as good as mothers at recognizing the cries of their baby

Gustafsson, E., Levréro, F., Reby, D., & Mathevon, N. (2013). Fathers are just as good as mothers at recognizing the cries of their baby. Nature Communications , 4, 1698.


Mothers and fathers have the same ability to recognize their infant’s cries (communication form).

Design:  controlled experimental design

Variables Measured, Instruments Used:

  1. Time spent with infant: questionnaire
  2. Infant cries: recordings taken at bath time


  • N= 29 infants and 27 fathers and 29 mothers.
  • Participant ages: infants were 58 days to 153 days old.
  • Location:  Infants and parents were from both France and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Eligibility: 29 total families were recruited, 15 families from Saint-Etienne, France and 14 families from two villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Informed consent was obtained from all participants.
  • SES:  unknown
  • Additional profile:  All mothers in the study spent more than four hours per day with their infant. Fathers were divided into two groups: those who spent more than four hours per day and    those who spent less than four hours per day with their infant. Families were divided into two groups:  “Nuclear Family” where parents were mostly exposed to only the cries of their own infant and “Enlarged Family” where parents were exposed to the cries of other infants. All mothers from enlarged families and 16 of the 19 mothers from nuclear families breastfed their infant for at least two months after birth.  Cries were collected in the context of bathing (undressing, put into water, re-dressed).


  1. The current study did not take into consideration a variety of factors which could affect the father’s response to their infant’s cries including hormonal fluctuations based on the time spent with the infant.
  2. The abilities of non-parental caregivers should be tested to fully support findings. 
  3. All mothers in the study spent at least four hours with their infant per day, therefore the study could not determine if less time spent with the infant had any effect on their ability to correctly identify their infant’s cry.


  1. Fathers were able to identify their infant’s cry with the same consistency as mothers if they spent four or more hours per day with the infant. 
  2. Daily contact with others’ infants impaired the ability of parents to recognize their own infant’s cries.
  3. In this situation, there were more false positives, which could indicate a strategy aimed at decreasing the risk of non-response to an infant’s cry.