Mother’s Day has already come and gone this year, but according to new research, your stress levels may decrease if you keep in touch with your Mom.
Seth D. Pollack, PhD, led a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who looked at the effect that contact with mothers can have on the stress levels of their daughters.
Previous studies using animal models showed that oxytocin levels increased when the animals had direct physical contact with their mothers. Oxytocin is the “feel good” chemical released in the brain that can counter the stress hormone cortisol.
In this current study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Pollack et al. found that verbal contact with moms can have similar beneficial effects on oxytocin levels.
Researchers took 61 girls between the ages of 7 and 12 and had them do public speaking or public math solving, situations which normally increase stress levels.
They then divided the girls into three groups. The first group had physical contact with their mothers for 15 minutes following the stressful event. The second group talked to their mothers over the telephone for 15 minutes.
But the third group had no contact with their mothers. Instead, they watched a 75-minute neutral film, which the other two groups also watched as soon as they were done interacting with their mothers.
Cortisol and oxytocin levels were tested on the girls, both before and after the stressful event.
Girls who had contact (either full or verbal) with their mothers, had drops in their cortisol levels starting immediately after the stress test and returning to normal levels within 30 minutes.
The girls who had no contact with their mothers experienced continual rises in their cortisol levels that lasted throughout the experience.
And, the girls who had contact with their mothers experienced elevated levels of oxytocin that lasted more than an hour after the stressful event. The girls with no maternal contact experienced no increase in oxytocin.
While this study focused on mothers and daughters and therefore can’t be generalized to all family relationships, attachment between all family members can’t be discarded, especially when dealing with stress and trauma.
Attachment is a powerful subject, and one that is frequently discussed in our programs on trauma treatment.
Please leave a comment below and tell us what you think of the “Mom intervention”.