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Touching Mom Lowers Stress Levels

Update Date: Sep 16, 2015 01:26 AM EDT

Being near mom can significantly reduce stress, according to a new study.

Australian researchers from Queen's University found that physical or psychological closeness with a family member can significantly reduce situational stress.

"We wanted to test a new evolutionary theory in psychology called Social Baseline Theory which suggests that humans adapted to be close to other humans," researcher Jessica Lougheed, a Ph.D. candidate at Queen's University, said in a news release . "The idea is that individuals function at a relative deficit when they are farther away from people they trust."

The latest study involved 66 adolescent girls who were asked to perform a spontaneous speech task while undergoing galvanic skin response tests.

Participants were asked to rate the relationship quality they had with their mothers. Participants were then instructed to hold or not hold their mothers' hand.

The study revealed that participants who were allowed to hold their mothers' hands were able to manage their stress more efficiently.

"Our results suggest that we are better equipped to overcome challenging situations when we are closer - either physically or in terms of how we feel in our relationships - to people we trust," said Lougheed.

"We were somewhat surprised to find that mothers' stress did not vary by physical closeness," Lougheed said. "After all, it can be stressful for parents to watch their children perform, but being able to offer physical comfort might have lessened the mothers' stress."

"Thus, emotional load-sharing in this context was not a function of the mothers' stress level, and we expect that it occurred instead through the daughters' perceptions of how stressful it was to give a speech. That is, higher physical and/or relationship closeness helped the daughters feel like they could overcome the challenging situation," she concluded.

The findings were published in the journal Emotion.

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