New York: Paternal instinct! Fathers are just as good as mothers at identifying the unique cries of their babies, a new study has found.
According to research published in the journal Nature Communications, it is experience and not maternal instinct that may lead to better recognition of babies` cries by parents.
"Before this study it was thought that mothers were more able to recognise their child from their cries than the fathers," said study co-author Nicolas Mathevon, a bioacoustician at Jean Monnet University in France.
"Fathers are as good as mothers at this task and it`s just a matter of learning," Mathevon said.
Scientists have not yet determined whether being able to distinguish one baby`s cry from another is important for humans.
"We are not like penguins with children lost among hundreds of others that we have to recognise," Mathevon told LiveScience.
Still, being able to pick their baby`s cries from others could mean a parent is better able to identify other needs, such as hunger or pain, from the teary wails, Mathevon said.
It is generally believed that women are better than men at this task due to a "maternal instinct".
The researchers recorded baby cries in two locations - France and the Democratic Republic of
Congo and asked 27 fathers and 29 mothers to pick their babies cries out from four other babies.
On average, parents were able to pick out their babies` cries about 90 per cent of the time.
Men could pick out their little ones` cries just as well as women - provided they spent at least four hours a day with the babies. Men who spent less time with their babies performed significantly worse at the task.
The ability to pick out their babies didn`t differ cross-culturally or with the baby`s sex.
In follow-up work, the study found that women who spent less than four hours per day with their babies also performed worse at the cry-recognition task, suggesting that experience, not instinct, enhanced this ability.