Researchers have commonly suspected that oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love and attachment, was lacking in people on the autism spectrum, but a new study indicates that is not necessarily the case. It was assumed that insufficient oxytocin levels were responsible for the detachment and social difficulties commonly associated with autism. In fact, that is what researchers conducting the study expected to find.
The study evaluated oxytocin levels in nearly 200 children, including kids with autism, their siblings, and neurotypical kids. Results showed that the social capacity of all the children was affected by their oxytocin levels and that the levels varied among the groups. In other words, the kids with autism were not any more likely to display oxytocin deficiencies than any of the other kids. Researchers also found that each child’s oxytocin levels were closely linked to those of their parents, suggesting a strong genetic component. Further studies on oxytocin levels are underway.
The “yawn contagion” effect occurs when people yawn in response to yawns from those around them. Researchers believe it is an empathy-induced form of emotional contagion. Apes such as bonobos also show yawn contagion, and researchers have recently shown that contagion is stronger among close allies. For example, a person is more likely to yawn when his or her child or friend yawns than when a stranger yawns.
Men are frequently resistant to couples therapy, potentially thwarting their relationships and emotional well-being. But marriage counselors say men are more willing to try therapy when they believe it will bring about positive results. Ultimatums and the fear that marriage counseling will be painful can be detrimental, but when men think counseling will solve problems, they’re more willing to give it a try.
The Medicaid expansion in some states has resulted in an increased demand for mental health care services, with some agencies seeing their traffic increasing by more than 40%. Many organizations are already reporting longer wait times for mental health care and current estimates suggest that 2 million more people will seek behavioral health care by 2016, but most states have actually decreased their mental health care spending. With the number of psychiatrists entering the field dropping, there may not be enough care providers for everyone. In many cases, this means people are seeking mental health care from primary care physicians rather than psychiatrists or therapists.
Transgender people are more vulnerable to a host of challenges, including violence, poverty, and ongoing transgender stigma. Researchers evaluated the effects that these challenges have on transgender women and their male partners. Not only does stigma harm each individual; it also undermines the couple’s relationship.
People who have happy relationships are more likely to openly proclaim their love on social media. But people who base their self-esteem on the quality of their romantic relationships are also likely to post such statuses. These users may also use social networking sites to monitor their romantic partners’ activities.
According to new research that examined 1,600 adolescents across the country, fear of crime leads teens to avoid dangerous people and avoid committing crimes themselves. Researchers argue that anti-crime initiatives can be more effective than fear-reduction strategies, which might actually increase crime.
Regular exposure to fiction may improve empathy. The brain doesn’t process stories from fiction differently; instead, it analyzes this information in the same way it analyzes information about what’s happening in the world. In one study, for example, parents who recognized popular children’s book titles and authors—suggesting they had read these stories to or with their children—had children who scored higher on theory of mind tests.
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