Subjects: Behavioral health
Simply hearing mom’s voice on the telephone triggers a marked calming effect in girls. The response is triggered by the release of a stress-reducing hormone, say scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
To reach these conclusions, Leslie Seltzer created a stressful situation by asking a cohort 7- to 12-year-old girls to deliver an extemporaneous speech and solve difficult math problems in front of an audience of strangers.
The stressed-out pre-teens were then randomized into 3 groups. Girls in the first group received hugs and related in-person comforting from their mothers. The second group received phone-based support from their mothers. The third group was hung out to dry watching an emotionally neutral video.
Seltzer’s group found that girls in the first two groups experienced a marked rise in oxytocin levels, whether their contact with mom was in person or via the telephone. They also found that the calming effects of the interaction, and the associated bump in oxytocin and reduction in cortisol, lasted for hours after the comfort session with mom.
Oxytocin is known to be associated with emotional bonding, but increased levels of the female hormone had previously been thought to require physical contact between mother and daughter.
“It’s clear that a mother’s voice can have the same effect as a hug, even if they’re not standing there,” Seltzer told BurrillReport.
“For years I’ve seen students leaving exams and the first thing they do is pull out their cell phone and make a call,” Seth Pollak, a psychology professor at UW-Madison told Burrill. “I used to think, ‘How could those over-attentive, helicopter parents encourage that?’ But now? Maybe it’s a quick and dirty way to feel better. It’s not pop psychology or psychobabble.”
The write-up appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.