Hearing mom’s voice soothes daughter’s stress

By Sheryl Kay • Published: August 17th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

There’s something special about a mom’s love for her daughter. A home-cooked meal, a deep conversation, even a simple hug can mean so much. In fact, even just the sound of mom’s voice can make all the difference in a daughter’s day.

According to a new study that appeared in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, girls actually experience a decrease in levels of stress when they hear their moms speak.

The study looked at sixty girls, all volunteers ages seven to twelve. Without prior knowledge participants were suddenly asked to give a speech in front of a group of strangers, and then were drilled with complex math problems. As expected, levels of the stress hormone cortisol dramatically increased when scientists analyzed the girls’ saliva soon after the stressful situations.

Researchers then divided the girls into three groups. The first received an in-person hug from their mothers, while the second group was connected by telephone with their moms, who were offering words of comfort on the other end of the line. The girls in the last group didn’t talk to their mothers and instead watched an emotionally indistinct movie called March of the Penguins.

The result? Mom’s influence exerted its soothing powers. Researchers found the calming effect on the girls who received a hug was more instantaneous, but that the stress hormone levels also quickly dropped in those who received comforting words from their mothers by phone. But the cortisol levels in the girls who watched the film still registered considerably above normal even one hour after their stressful experiences.

The researchers recommended that future studies should analyze stress reduction in boys as well. After all, mom’s loving voice can’t be beat.