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BPA Can Adversely Affect Parenting Behaviors in Mice

Biparental care of offspring, or care that is administered by both parents, occurs in only a minority of species, including humans. Past studies have shown that maternal care can be negatively affected when females are exposed to widely prevalent endocrine-disrupting chemicals including Bisphenol-A (BPA); however, no studies have shown how this chemical can affect maternal and paternal care when both parents are exposed. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have used the monogamous, biparental California mouse species to prove that offspring born to parents who are exposed to BPA receive decreased parental care by both the mother and father. Scientists believe results could have relevance to human parenting as well.

The California mouse is used as a model for examining parental behaviors because they are monogamous and, much like humans, both male and female partners contribute to child-rearing. Male partners exhibit cooperative care of the pups from birth to weaning by cleaning, grooming and providing warmth by huddling over their young when females leave the nest. Impaired care could lead to adverse consequences for the young and, since brain regions and hormones regulating biparental behaviors appear to be similar across species, this study may have human implications.

“Endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA mimic the steroid hormones that establish the ‘circuitry’ for the adult female brain during early development, but little was known about how this chemical might affect the father’s behavior,” said Cheryl Rosenfeld, associate professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and a researcher in the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU. “Our study set out to address this critical void by exposing both males and females to the endocrine-disrupting chemicals BPA and Ethinyl estardiol (EE), the main active component of birth control pills, and examine the repercussions of rearing offspring.”

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