Neonatal male circumcision is associated with altered adult socio-affective processing

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  • Alessandro Miani
  • Gian Antonio Di Bernardo, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
  • ,
  • Astrid Ditte Højgaard, Aalborg University
  • ,
  • Brian D Earp, Yale University
  • ,
  • Paul J Zak, Claremont Graduate University, California
  • ,
  • Anne M Landau
  • Jørgen Hoppe
  • ,
  • Michael Winterdahl

Background: Neonatal male circumcision is a painful skin-breaking procedure that may affect infant physiological and behavioral stress responses as well as mother-infant interaction. Due to the plasticity of the developing nociceptive system, neonatal pain might carry long-term consequences on adult behavior. In this study, we examined whether infant male circumcision is associated with long-term psychological effects on adult socio-affective processing.

Methods: We recruited 408 men circumcised within the first month of life and 211 non-circumcised men and measured socio-affective behaviors and stress via a battery of validated psychometric scales.

Results: Early-circumcised men reported lower attachment security and lower emotional stability while no differences in empathy or trust were found. Early circumcision was also associated with stronger sexual drive and less restricted socio-sexuality along with higher perceived stress and sensation seeking.

Limitations: This is a cross-sectional study relying on self-reported measures from a US population.

Conclusions: Our findings resonate with the existing literature suggesting links between altered emotional processing in circumcised men and neonatal stress. Consistent with longitudinal studies on infant attachment, early circumcision might have an impact on adult socio-affective traits or behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere05566
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

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© 2020 The Author(s).

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