Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Children Distressed By Family Fighting Have Higher Stress Hormones

Date:
November 18, 2008
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
A new study found that children who are very distressed when their parents fight have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Distress, hostility, and level of involvement parental arguments were measured in 208 six-year olds. Cortisol levels were measured by taking saliva samples before and after simulated telephone arguments between their parents. Children who were very distressed and very involved in response to parental fighting had especially high cortisol levels.

Children who become very upset when their parents fight are more likely to develop psychological problems. But little is known about what happens beyond these behavioral reactions in terms of children's biological responses. A new study has found that children who are very distressed when their parents fight also have higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

The study is by researchers at the University of Rochester, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Notre Dame.

The researchers studied 208 primarily White 6-year-olds and their mothers to determine whether children who showed specific behavior patterns of reacting to conflict also had changes in cortisol levels during simulated telephone arguments between their parents. They measured children's distress, hostility, and level of involvement in the arguments, and received reports from the mothers about how their children responded when parents fought at home. Cortisol levels were measured by taking saliva samples before and after the conflicts in the lab.

Children who were very distressed by the conflicts in the lab had higher levels of cortisol in response to their parents fighting. Children's levels of hostility and their involvement during the arguments weren't always related to their levels of cortisol, the study found. But children who were very distressed and very involved in response to parental fighting had especially high levels of cortisol.

"Our results indicate that children who are distressed by conflict between their parents show greater biological sensitivity to conflict in the form of higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol," according to Patrick T. Davies, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, who led the study. "Because higher levels of cortisol have been linked to a wide range of mental and physical health difficulties, high levels of cortisol may help explain why children who experience high levels of distress when their parents argue are more likely to experience later health problems."

The study has implications for policy and practice: The common practice of judging how well intervention programs are doing based solely on improvements in how children function psychologically may need to be changed to include physiological measures like cortisol levels, the authors suggest.

The study was funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Davies, PT et al. Adrenocortical Underpinnings of Children's Psychological Reactivity to Interparental Conflict. Child Development, November/December 2008; Vol. 79, Issue 6

Cite This Page:

Society for Research in Child Development. "Children Distressed By Family Fighting Have Higher Stress Hormones." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081114080912.htm>.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2008, November 18). Children Distressed By Family Fighting Have Higher Stress Hormones. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081114080912.htm
Society for Research in Child Development. "Children Distressed By Family Fighting Have Higher Stress Hormones." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081114080912.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) A new study says children born less than one year and more than five years after a sibling can have an increased risk for autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping School Violence

Stopping School Violence

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A trauma doctor steps out of the hospital and into the classroom to teach kids how to calmly solve conflicts, avoiding a trip to the ER. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A tiny cyst in the brain that can cause debilitating symptoms like chronic headaches and insomnia, and the doctor who performs the delicate surgery to remove them. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Burning Away Brain Tumors

Burning Away Brain Tumors

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) Doctors are 'cooking' brain tumors. Hear how this new laser-heat procedure cuts down on recovery time. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins