Speaking with Mom via Telephone Shown Effective for Stress Release

A common theme from many childhoods, a hug from one’s mother following a stressful event is typically able to help relieve anxiety and other negative feelings, causing a child to experience a greater state of relaxation. The effect has been well-documented by researchers, but had, until now, been believed to be limited to the physical presence and touch of the mother. In a study performed at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, researchers recently found that this same effect can be achieved simply by talking to one’s mother on the phone.

The researchers worked with a group of seven to twelve year old girls who were asked to make an impromptu speech and complete a series of math problems in front of a group of strangers, tasks which were considered to be highly stressful and which succeeded in causing stress among the girls, determined by a faster heart rate and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Following these tasks, girls were either met by their mothers and given a hug, shown a video described as being emotionally neutral, or talked to their mothers over the phone. The girls who had contact with their mothers showed the same levels of recovery from stress whether contact was made in person or via the telephone, a finding that suggests no physical interaction is necessary for the soothing effect of a mother’s presence. The release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with love, was found to be comparable in the girls from those groups that received maternal contact.

Significantly changing established ideas about the effects of parental interaction, the study may help researchers better understand the nature of family relationships and how various events and behaviors can have an impact upon the experience of childhood.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • adan


    May 13th, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    Its great to know a mother can help in such a manner even from a distance…way to go,ma! :)

  • Olivia


    May 14th, 2010 at 3:10 AM

    My mom and I speak to each other on the phone practically every day. The day just does not feel quite right until we have had a little chat. And you are right- there is no one out there who can make me feel so confident or who knows me better than my mom. I wish that every daughter was able to have that same kind of relationship with her mom but I know that this is an impossibility. But hopefully everyone has someone in her life who can fulfill that mother role and let you know just how beautiful and wonderful you are like your mom can do for you.

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