Research projects

Ongoing projects

What makes a mother? - a mixed methods approach


In this study we want to research the sociological and neurological/hormonal aspects of what it means to be a mother and how these aspects interact. We will be carrying out an analysis of UK-based websites to explore what is expected of mothers. We will then use fMRI to research the neurological correlates of maternal responsiveness (as compared to paternal responsiveness and responsiveness to other attachment figures), and how the hormone oxytocin affects this responsiveness. We will also be analysing parental behaviour using an index such as the CARE-index. We are hypothesising that oxytocin will improve parental responsiveness, especially in mothers who are thought to have a greater density in oxytocin receptors than fathers. In addition to its theoretical implications, such a finding has great implications for the public health sector as oxytocin could be used in parenting interventions. In a final part of the study, we will interview participants to investigate whether in every-day life mothers’ and fathers’ behaviour is in line with social expectations and/or neurological findings.

Duration of the project

3 years

Funding body

Neuroscience Research Institute

Members of the project

Josie AustinPhD student
Professor Kathryn Abel Supervisor
Dr Richard DrakeSupervisor
Dr. Vanessa MaySupervisor