Date of Award


Document Type



Biological Science


Dr. Meredith Rowe


The following project involves a systematic review of the scientific literature on neural and biological changes of mothers and fathers in parenthood. Until very recently, little scientific research was devoted to studying how bearing children affects a man or woman’s long-term biology. Over the last twenty years, studies of neuroplastic changes in new mothers show specific neural mechanisms responsible for altering the behaviors of mothers during and after pregnancy. These changes in neuroplasticity alter behavior in such a way that led to mothers requiring less sleep and being more prone to hearing the cries of their children. In addition to these neural changes, fetal cell migration through the placenta plays a role in the biology of mothers, including both disease onset and prevention. Scientists today seek to understand the correlation between motherhood and its effects on the lifespan of the woman. Recent studies suggest that mothers are not the only parent to undergo physical changes after becoming a parent. Even though men are not directly involved in the childbearing process past fertilization, fathers undergo changes in their neural and biological pathways as well. As humans have co-parented for the majority of human history, many fathers are subject to hormone fluctuations and increases in adipose tissue as a survival mechanism to aid in many sleepless nights ahead once their baby is born. Current research continues to answer more questions regarding how becoming a parent affects long-term health and longevity.