Paternal behavior influences development of aggression and vasopressin expression in male California mouse offspring

Cristianne R M Frazier, Brian C. Trainor, Catherine J. Cravens, Tina K. Whitney, Catherine A. Marler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Parental care has been demonstrated to have important effects on offspring behavioral development. California mice (Peromyscus californicus) are biparental, and correlational evidence suggests that pup retrieving by fathers has important effects on the development of aggressive behavior and extra-hypothalamic vasopressin systems. We tested whether retrievals affected these systems by manipulating paternal retrieval behavior between day 15 and 21 postpartum. Licking and grooming behavior affect behavioral development in rats, so we also experimentally reduced huddling and grooming behavior by castrating a subset of fathers. Experimentally increasing the frequency of paternal pup retrieving behavior decreased attack latency in resident-intruder in both male and female adult offspring, whereas experimental reduction of huddling and grooming had no effect. In a separate group of male offspring, we examined vasopressin immunoreactivity (AVP-ir) in two regions of the posterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST): the dorsal fiber tracts (dBNST) and the ventral cell body-containing region (vBNST). Experimentally increasing retrievals led to an apparent shift in AVP-ir distribution. Specifically, offspring from the high retrieval group had more AVP-ir than offspring from the sham retrieval group in the dBNST, whereas the opposite was observed in the vBNST. Experimental reduction of paternal grooming was associated with increased AVP-ir in the paraventricular nucleus and also increased corticosterone and progesterone, similar to observed effects of maternal grooming on HPA function. This study provides further evidence that paternal behavior influences the development of aggression and associated neural substrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)699-707
Number of pages9
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggression
  • Arginine vasopressin
  • Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis
  • Corticosterone
  • Grooming
  • Huddling
  • Mice
  • Paternal behavior
  • Peromyscus
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neurology
  • Psychology(all)


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