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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Mother's phone call as comforting as a hug, says oxytocin study

Hearing your mother's voice on the telephone has the same stress-busting effect as a cuddle, say US scientists. Children know that mum's got the words when life seems to be getting too much.

Now it seems her voice on the phone can work the same soothing magic as when she is there to give her offspring a comforting cuddle. US scientists believe hearing mother down the line produces the same stress-busting effect on her daughter as physical contact such as a hug or a loving arm round the shoulder.

In a study that will send phone companies into their own comfort zone, researchers found mothers' calls released similar levels of the social bonding hormone oxytocin in girls as when they were in close proximity.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the scientists report how they deliberately raised the stress levels of 61 girls aged seven to 12. The children had to make an impromptu speech and solve maths problems in front of strangers. This sent their hearts racing and levels of stress hormone cortisol higher.

This is probably what all mothers instinctively know anyway and Freud no doubt understood this at a psychological level: that there are many unseen bonds that exist beyond the level of psychology e.g. what are often classified as the Oedipus and the Electra complexes.

We all know that the words that come from mum are soothing in ways we can't understand but which we feel as doing us the power of good when we are sick, or angry, stressed, or just simply in need of conversation and communication.

This is always comforting to know.

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