Human Nature

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 268–282 | Cite as

Steroid Hormone Reactivity in Fathers Watching Their Children Compete

  • Louis Calistro AlvaradoEmail author
  • Martin N. Muller
  • Melissa A. Eaton
  • Melissa Emery Thompson


This study examines steroid production in fathers watching their children compete, extending previous research of vicarious success or failure on men’s hormone levels. Salivary testosterone and cortisol levels were measured in 18 fathers watching their children play in a soccer tournament. Participants completed a survey about the game and provided demographic information. Fathers with higher pregame testosterone levels were more likely to report that referees were biased against their children’s teams, and pre- to postgame testosterone elevation was predicted by watching sons compete rather than daughters as well as perceptions of unfair officiating. Pregame cortisol was not associated with pregame testosterone or with perceived officiating bias, but cortisol did fluctuate synergistically with testosterone during spectator competition. Although fathers showed no consistent testosterone change in response to winning or losing, pregame testosterone may mediate steroid hormone reactivity to other aspects of their children’s competition.


Testosterone Cortisol Vicarious competition Kin Father-child coalitions 



We thank Kevin Kniffin and Michelle Scalise Sugiyama for their invitation to contribute to this special issue of Human Nature. We thank Jane Lancaster and three anonymous reviewers for comments, Ajay Yesupriya for statistical advice, and Jennifer Cabotage, M. Anderson Frey, Sarah Phillips-Garcia, and Stacie Powell for help with data collection and hormone analysis. We are also grateful to the soccer parents who participated in this study. Alvarado was supported by the Graduate Research Fellowship Program from the National Science Foundation at the time of data collection.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis Calistro Alvarado
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martin N. Muller
    • 2
  • Melissa A. Eaton
    • 3
  • Melissa Emery Thompson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity at Albany – State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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