Fetuses respond to father's voice but prefer mother's voice after birth


  • Grace Y. Lee,

    1. Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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  • Barbara S. Kisilevsky

    Corresponding author
    1. Margaret B. Vogan Professor, School of Nursing, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6
    2. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen's University, Canada
    3. Kingston General Hospital, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
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  • The authors have no conflict of interest with regard to this research.


Fetal and newborn responding to audio-recordings of their father's versus mother's reading a story were examined. At home, fathers read a different story to the fetus each day for 7 days. Subsequently, in the laboratory, continuous fetal heart rate was recorded during a 9 min protocol, including three, 3 min periods: baseline no-sound, voice (mother or father), postvoice no-sound. Following a 20 min delay, the opposite voice was delivered. Newborn head-turning was observed on 20 s trials: three no-sound, three voice (mother or father), three opposite voice, three no-sound trials with the same segment of each parent's recording. Fetuses showed a heart rate increase to both voices which was sustained over the voice period. Consistent with prior reports, newborns showed a preference for their mother's but not their father's voice. The characteristics of voice stimuli that capture fetal attention and elicit a response are yet to be identified. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 56: 1–11, 2014.