Thursday, May 27, 2010


A new study show AT&T was really on to something with their old 'Reach out and touch someone" ad campaign. A new study shows that simply talking to mom reduces stress levels for most kids, particularly for pre-teen girls.

Apparently women are all wired to produce the 'feel good' brain chemical oxytocin when we see babies, enjoy orgasm, breastfeed and go through labor. It is considered to play a key roll in bonding and in preparing a woman's brain for motherhood. This also gives us the "innate" knowledge of how to soothe children, and through soothing them from infancy, a reaction is created which can be triggered by our voice alone.

When put in a stressful situation and then allowed to interact with their mother on the phone or in person; the study showed the girl's stress hormone cortisol immediately decreased and then disappeared in 1/2 hour and oxytocin increased and lasted for an hour. In the girls who had no interaction with mom, there was no oxytocin released at all and the cortisol levels remained elevated for the duration of the test.

While the test was done with pre-teen girls, there is no reason to think that the results are not similarly helpful for kids of all ages. For instance, the study suggests that physical contact isn't necessary to comfort stressed-out teenagers who no longer welcome hugs from Mom as much as they used to. Just talking with your teens may have an effect on reducing the stress response, no matter how negatively they may react on the outside!

My college age kids call me all the time when they want to vent. They call me all the time about a lot of things. My sister is amazed how much they call, sometimes several times a day. She is certain her son will never call her.

The study suggests that our ability to cope with stress may be shaped by very early interactions with our mothers. From early infancy, the mother child relationship may help to strengthen and promote the development of the oxytocin system, which may have effects into later childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood on how we respond to stress. So if you have had a child who was difficult to sooth, for whatever reason, perhaps that bond would not be so well defined and the relationship not be helpful with stress.

This certainly makes me feel better in some respects. It doesn't suggest that you have to be saying the "right things" to have a positive effect. Certainly I have been known to say the wrong thing when I was trying to be helpful...that my motherly tone, love and affection may be enough to trigger the brain chemicals to save the day takes a lot of the heat off on my end of the stress level!


phd in yogurtry said...

I am so relieved to read this after the reaction I got from my teen tonight which was anything but calmed and soothed.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We do more FB chatting than talking, but if there really is a problem I definitely get a call.