Human Nature

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 201–218 | Cite as

Testosterone and Jamaican Fathers

Exploring Links to Relationship Dynamics and Paternal Care
  • Peter B. GrayEmail author
  • Jody Reece
  • Charlene Coore-Desai
  • Twana Dinall
  • Sydonnie Pellington
  • Maureen Samms-Vaughan


This paper investigates relationships between men’s testosterone and family life in a sample of approximately 350 Jamaican fathers of children 18–24 months of age. The study recognizes the role of testosterone as a proximate mechanism coordinating and reflecting male life history allocations within specific family and cultural contexts. A sample of Jamaican fathers and/or father figures reported to an assessment center for an interview based on a standardized questionnaire and provided a saliva sample for measuring testosterone level. Outcomes measured include subject demographics such as age and relationship status as well as partnership quality and sexuality and paternal attitudes and behavior. The variation in these fathers’ relationship status (e.g., married co-residential fathers, fathers in new non-residential relationships) was not associated with men’s testosterone. Too few stepfathers participated to enable a direct test of the prediction that stepfathers would have higher testosterone than biological fathers, although fathers who reported living with partners’ (but not his own) children did not have higher testosterone than fathers not reporting residing with a non-biological child. Fathers’ relationship quality was negatively related to their testosterone. Measures of paternal attitudes and behavior were not related to fathers’ testosterone. Consistent with previous ethnography, this sample of Jamaican fathers exhibited variable life history profiles, including residential status. We discuss why fathers’ relationship quality was found to be negatively related to their testosterone level, but other predictions were not upheld.


Fatherhood Testosterone Relationships Sexuality Life history 



We thank all of the men who participated in this study and the field research team who conducted interviews. For comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript, we thank Kali Bertelsen, Elizabeth Brogdon, Kristen Herlosky, Emilio Jacintho, Timothy McHale, Alesha Pettit, Teofilo Reyes, and Shelly Volsche. Thank you to Meghan Pierce for running the testosterone assays. For financial support, we are indebted to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), University of the West Indies (UWI), Michigan State University (MSU), University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter B. Gray
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jody Reece
    • 2
  • Charlene Coore-Desai
    • 2
  • Twana Dinall
    • 2
  • Sydonnie Pellington
    • 2
  • Maureen Samms-Vaughan
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Nevada, Las VegasLas VegasUSA
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent HealthUniversity of the West IndiesKingstonJamaica

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