Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Children's personalities linked to their chemical response to stress

Date:
July 25, 2011
Source:
University of Rochester
Summary:
Is your kid a "dove" -- cautious and submissive when confronting new environments, or perhaps you have a "hawk" -- bold and assertive in unfamiliar settings? These basic temperamental patterns are linked to opposite hormonal responses to stress -- differences that may provide children with advantages for navigating threatening environments, researchers report.

Is your kid a "dove" -- cautious and submissive when confronting new environments, or perhaps you have a "hawk" -- bold and assertive in unfamiliar settings?

Related Articles


These basic temperamental patterns are linked to opposite hormonal responses to stress -- differences that may provide children with advantages for navigating threatening environments, researchers report in a study published online July 8, 2011, in Development and Psychopathology.

"Divergent reactions -- both behaviorally and chemically -- may be an evolutionary response to stress," says Patrick Davies, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and the lead author of the study. "These biological reactions may have provided our human ancestors with adaptive survival advantages. For example, dovish compliance may work better under some challenging family conditions, while hawkish aggression could be an asset in others." This evolutionary perspective, says Davies, provides an important counterpoint to the prevailing idea in psychology that "there is one healthy way of being and that all behaviors are either adaptive or maladaptive."

Coauthor Melissa Sturge-Apple agrees: "When it comes to healthy psychological behavior, one size does not fit all." The assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rochester adds that the findings "give us insight into how basic behavioral patterns are also chemical patterns."

To understand the role of stress in children's reactions, Davies, Sturge-Apple, and Dante Cicchetti, a professor of child development and psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, focused on parental conflict in young families. "Research has shown that exposure to repeated aggression between parents is a significant stressor for children," explains Davies.

The study looked at 201 two-year-old toddlers, all from impoverished families with similar socio-economic profiles. Based on interviews and questionnaires with the mothers, the authors assessed children's exposure to levels of aggression between parents.

The researchers also documented the dove or hawk tendencies of the toddlers in a variety of unfamiliar situations. Children who showed dovish tendencies were vigilant and submissive in the face of novelty. The toddlers clung to their mothers, cried, or froze when encountering new surroundings. Hawks used bold, aggressive, and dominating strategies for coping with challenge. They fearlessly explored unknown objects and new environments.

When the researchers exposed the children to a mildly stressful simulated telephone argument between their parents, distinct patterns of hormonal reactions emerged. Children exposed to high levels of interparental aggression at home showed different reactions to the telephone quarrel. Doves with parents who fought violently produced elevated levels of cortisol, a hormone that is thought to increase a person's sensitivity to stress. Hawks from such stressful home environments put the breaks on cortisol production, which is regarded as a marker for diminishing experiences of danger and alarm.

This high-and-low-cortisol reactivity provides different developmental advantages and disadvantages, the authors write. Heightened cortisol levels characteristic of the doves were related to lower attention problems but also put them at risk for developing anxiety and depression over time. By contrast, the lower cortisol levels for hawks in aggressive families were associated with lower anxiety problems; however, at the same time, these children were more prone to risky behavior, including attention and hyperactivity problems.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Rochester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Patrick T. Davies, Melissa L. Sturge-Apple, Dante Cicchetti. Interparental aggression and children's adrenocortical reactivity: Testing an evolutionary model of allostatic load. Development and Psychopathology, 2011; 23 (03): 801 DOI: 10.1017/S0954579411000319

Cite This Page:

University of Rochester. "Children's personalities linked to their chemical response to stress." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110708084005.htm>.
University of Rochester. (2011, July 25). Children's personalities linked to their chemical response to stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110708084005.htm
University of Rochester. "Children's personalities linked to their chemical response to stress." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110708084005.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
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