Your Health

Mom's Voice Packs Soothing Power

A mother's whispers of comfort to her child can be as healing as a hug.

Mother whispers to child.

What mom has to say may relax you. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, hypothesized that the brain might release the hormone oxytocin in response to a mother's words of comfort, similar to the brain's response to a mother's physical nurturing.

This hormone helps regulate all sort of biological and social processes in the body, including feelings of attachment between mothers and their young, as well as the suppression of stress.

The study, published online by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (B for Biology), involved 61 mothers and their daughters who were between 7 and 12 years old. The children were asked to take part in a particularly stressful activity. They spoke in public and performed math tasks in front of an audience. Stress levels were measured by assessing certain chemicals in their saliva.

The children were then divided into three groups. In one group, mothers were able to comfort their children with all sensory stimuli including voice and physical contact. In the second group, mothers spoke to their children only over the telephone and didn't have physical contact with them. In the third group, children watched an hour-long film and had no interaction with their mother.

As suspected, researchers were able to measure higher levels of stress chemicals among children who had no maternal contact. Those children who had physical or vocal interaction with their mothers experienced the same amount of stress reduction as did those who received vocal comfort alone.

The scientists conclude that speech may be just as important as touch in theĀ  development of important social bonds. But you and your Mom probably knew that already.

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