Hormones shape kids responses to stress

Washington: Is your kid a "dove" - cautious and submissive when confronting new environments, or perhaps you have a "hawk" - bold and assertive in unfamiliar settings?

These basic temperamental patterns are linked to opposite hormonal responses to stress -- differences that may provide children with advantages for navigating threatening environments.

"Divergent reactions - both behaviourally and chemically - may be an evolutionary response to stress (governed by hormones)," says Patrick Davies, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, who led the study.

"These biological reactions may have provided our human ancestors with adaptive survival advantages," says Davies, reports the journal Development and Psychopathology.

"For example, dovish compliance may work better under some challenging family conditions, while hawkish aggression could be an asset in others," adds Davies, according to a Rochester statement.

Co-author Melissa Sturge-Apple, Davies counterpart, agrees: "When it comes to healthy psychological behaviour, one size does not fit all."

Their study looked at 201 two-year-old toddlers from poor families with similar socio-economic profiles. The authors assessed children`s exposure to levels of aggression between parents.

Toddlers who showed dovish tendencies were vigilant and submissive in the face of novelty. They clung to their mothers, cried, or froze when encountering new surroundings.

Hawks used bold, aggressive, and dominating strategies for coping with challenge. They fearlessly explored unknown objects and new environments.


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