In mammals, breeding is preceded by species-specific mating behaviours. In this study, we investigated whether parthenogenetic embryo quality could be improved by mating behaviours in mice. To investigate this hypothesis, female mice were mated with vasectomized Kunming white male mice after superovulation. Oocytes were collected and counted at 16 h after superovulation. The oocytes were then artificially activated by medium containing 10 mM strontium chloride and 5 µg/ml cytochalasin B. Blastocysts were obtained by cultivating activated oocytes in vitro. Expression levels of reprogramming transcription factors (i.e. Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and c-Myc) in oocytes, apoptosis-related genes (i.e. Bax, Bcl2 and c-Myc) in cumulus cells and pluripotency-related transcription factors (i.e. Oct4, Nanog and FGF4) in blastocysts were analysed in samples collected from mated and unmated mice. Additionally, developmental competence of parthenogenetic embryos was used to assess following fibroblast growth factor 4 (FGF4) treatment. The results showed that the formation rate of blastocysts in unmated mice was significantly higher than that in mated mice (p < 0.05). Embryo development was primarily blocked at the eight-cell stage in mated mice; however, the blastocyst formation rate did not differ significantly between groups after the addition of 25 ng/ml FGF4 to the medium at the four-cell stage (p > 0.05). Moreover, the expression of the reprogramming factor Sox2 was significantly different in oocytes collected from mated versus unmated mice. Taken together, our results demonstrated that mating behaviours influenced embryonic development in vitro by decreasing FGF4 expression. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.