People whose parents divorced when they were children have substantially lower levels of oxytocin — the so-called “love hormone” — and that may explain their own difficulties forming lasting relationships, a new study suggests.
The study out of Baylor University is “a first step to understanding how oxytocin during stressful events in young people may be linked to their future,” said lead author Maria Boccia.
Oxytocin is a neurohormone produced in the pituitary, a small, bean-shaped gland deep in the center of the brain.
It is called the “love hormone” because it is released during bonding experiences such as delivering and nursing a baby, snuggling with a child or hugging a romantic partner — reinforcing those behaviors with that warm, fuzzy feeling.
The Baylor study, published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology, adds to the understanding of how early, parental stress — and the suppression of oxytocin that may result — could also be linked to adult outcomes.
“What we found was that oxytocin was substantially lower in people who experienced parental divorce compared to those who did not,” Boccia said.
The 128 study subjects filled out questionnaires that asked about their parents and peers during childhood, including about their memories of affection and feeling protected or abused.
The questionnaires also asked about their current levels of confidence, discomfort with closeness, need for approval, and styles of relationships and caregiving.
Urine samples were then collected from the subjects and tested for oxytocin concentration.
“The levels were substantially lower in individuals whose childhood experience included their parents’ divorce,” the university said in a statement on the study.
“Those who experienced parental divorce during childhood were less confident, more uncomfortable with closeness and less secure in relationships,” the statement said.
“They rated their own caregiving style as less sensitive and close than did the participants whose parents had not divorced.”
Previous studies of people whose parents divorced — or who experienced a parent’s death — during their childhood have also found links to depression, anxiety and substance abuse, the researchers noted.
Baylor is a private Christian University located in Waco, Tx.
Crdit: Source link