A new study analyzes the development of oxytocin in the body of children, a development that can be influenced by the behavior of mothers themselves. Oxytocin is an important hormone linked mainly to social interaction and plays this role in many mammals. This same hormone, as reported in the press release presenting the study on the Max Planck Society website, elaborates trust levels and relationships and can also be triggered with a simple visual contact or a touch.
In the new epigenetic study, conducted by researchers Kathleen Krol and Jessica Connelly of the University of Virginia and Tobias Grossmann of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Cerebral Sciences, researchers show that mothers’ behavior itself can have a significant influence on the development of oxytocin in children.
As Grossmann himself explains, it is already known that oxytocin is involved in the first social processes of the child and may in the long run also influence social behavior later, the more complex ones. The researcher himself explains the meaning of the research they produced: “However, in this study, we asked ourselves whether the mother’s behavior could have a decisive influence on the development of the child’s oxytocin system. The advances in molecular biology, in particular epigenetics, have recently allowed us to study the interaction between nature and breeding, in this case, the care of children, down to the smallest detail. This is exactly what we did here.”
The researchers analyzed various saliva samples taken from the mother and child when he was five months old and then a year later when he was 18 months, all while observing free play interactions between the mothers and the children themselves. According to Krol, the results show that “The oxytocin receptor is essential for the hormone oxytocin to exert its effects and the gene can determine how many are produced.”
In general, the results of this study show that people do not interact with each other simply based on genetics but that the same interaction is based on a balance between genetics and experiences. This means that the first social interactions that the child may have, even with a breeder who is not a parent, can strongly influence biological and psychological development through changes in oxytocin.