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Father Pheromones

December 11, 2006

Fathers may emit pheromones that keep their daughters young.


The father-daughter effect. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Fathers can keep their daughters from growing up too fast just by sticking around. In fact, Penn State University psychologist Robert Matchock says they may do so biochemically. He and his colleagues studied nearly 2,000 women. Those who had grown up with their biological fathers got their first menstrual period a little bit later than those who didn’t. It’s not clear why.

ROBERT MATCHOCK (Penn State University, Altoona):
We just thought that the simpler explanation would be that it’s chemically based.

He notes that the same father-daughter effect is seen in other mammals, from rodents to primates, and that odorless chemical cues called pheromones are known to stimulate or repress sexual maturity. He believes this chemical relationship may have evolved to prevent inbreeding.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.