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Lack of Newborn Bonding Affects Brain Hormones

E-Dog Night

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In a nutshell:

Compared with children raised by biological parents, children who were raised in foreign orphanages before adoption by American families have altered levels of social-bonding hormones -- infants' social experiences can affect brain organization.

Studies were done on children adopted into American families after being raised from birth in foreign orphanages, where they often failed to receive standard emotional and physical contact from caregivers. The researchers compared these children with a control group of American children raised by their families. Two hormones were of interest to the researchers: oxytocin and arginine vasopressin, both of which are associated with stress regulation and social bonding, and whose levels rise after socially pleasant experiences such as comforting touches.

Compared with the control group, children raised in orphanages showed lower baseline levels of vasopressin. Also, oxytocin levels of family-raised children increased after playful social contact with their mothers, but orphanage-raised children did not display the same response. The results suggest that a failure to receive typical care as a child can disrupt normal development of these hormonal systems, which can then interfere with the calming and comforting effects that typically emerge between children and their caregivers.

A number of links with different angles to the same story:

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/22/health/22horm.html

CBS News (WebMD): http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/11/21/health/webmd/main1065460.shtml

BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4456082.stm

Forbes (HealthDay News): http://www.forbes.com/lifestyle/health/feeds/hscout/2005/11/21/hscout529266.html

Newsday: http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsbond214522600nov21,0,5788933.story

Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/news/health/depriving-babies-of-cuddles-does-longterm-harm/2005/11/22/1132421669263.html

Nature magazine: http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051121/full/051121-2.html

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