Research in the past has shown that mothers of newborn babies have an innate ability to understand the vocalizations in their child's cries. A recent study now suggests a father's "maternal instincts" may be just as strong as the child's mother.

French researchers set out to determine what biological and environmental factors play a role in a parent's ability to hear their offspring's cry over other children. Past studies have shown that women are biologically competent in perceiving these vocalizations and this ability cannot be found in men.

Lead author of the study Professor Nicolas Mathevon from the University of Lyon in Saint-Etienne, France says past related studies have failed to focus on the father's paternal skills and neglect to include the amount of time the parent spends with their child.

Mathevon and his colleagues tested 27 new fathers and 29 new mothers to see how well they recognized their child's cry compared to other babies' vocalizations.

Both the mothers and fathers listened to two sessions of 15 cries with three coming from the parent's actual child and the rest from unknown babies around the same age.

Parents were also asked to answer a survey regarding if this was their first child and the amount of time they spent with their child each day.

The research team found that experience and time spent with their child played a significant role in determining the parent's response time.

Fathers who spent more than four hours a day with their infant recorded a similar recognition rate of 10 percent compared to their female counterpart.Their results showed that fathers who spent less than four hours a day with their child or those who spent time with other babies showed a lower rate of recognizing their offspring's voice.

This study was published in the April edition of the online publication Nature Communications.