In four separate studies of mothers and their infants, preschoolers, kids and teens, a multi-university research team has shown, for the first time, that a simple test of a little drool can provide new insight into the role of social stressors, including relationships with parents and teachers, in child development.
The test monitors alpha amylase, an enzyme secreted by the salivary glands, that has been linked in adults to the sympathetic nervous system’s (SNS) fight or flight response. Now, in these new studies, alpha amylase has been shown to be a marker for the SNS response in children, too.
The current findings suggest that social forces largely determine individual differences in alpha amylase levels. The social stressors used in the studies included babies being gently restrained by a stranger and the older children having to complete a frustrating task, interact with a teacher, or be evaluated. Social relationships with mothers and teachers were also found to influence alpha amylase levels.
Barbara Hale | EurekAlert!
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