Children Distressed By Family Fighting Have Higher Stress Hormones

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 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.

Read more at EurekAlert

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