Nov 21, 2005
Compared with children raised by biological parents, children who were raised in foreign orphanages before adoption by American families apparently have altered levels of social-bonding hormones, researchers report.
Researchers are interested in how infants’ social experiences can affect brain organization. Seth Pollak and colleagues studied children adopted into American families after being raised from birth in foreign orphanages, where they often failed to receive standard emotional and physical contact from caregivers.
The researchers compared these children with a control group of American children raised by their families. Two hormones were of interest to the researchers: oxytocin and arginine vasopressin, both of which are associated with stress regulation and social bonding, and whose levels rise after socially pleasant experiences such as comforting touches.
Compared with the control group, children raised in orphanages showed lower baseline levels of vasopressin. Also, oxytocin levels of family-raised children increased after playful social contact with their mothers, but orphanage-raised children did not display the same response. The results suggest that a failure to receive typical care as a child can disrupt normal development of these hormonal systems, which can then interfere with the calming and comforting effects that typically emerge between children and their caregivers.
Amazing what a little interpersonal chemistry can do, isn’t it?
SOURCE: PNAS Press Release