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Adult attachment and social support interact to reduce psychological but not cortisol responses to stress


Ditzen, Beate; Schmidt, S; Strauss, B; Nater, U M; Ehlert, Ulrike; Heinrichs, M (2008). Adult attachment and social support interact to reduce psychological but not cortisol responses to stress. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64(5):479-486.

Abstract

Objective: Adult attachment has been suggested to mediate the effect of social support on stress protection. The
purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of adult attachment and social support on psychological
and endocrine responses to psychosocial stress.

Methods: Sixty-three healthy men who were married or cohabiting were randomly assigned to receive either instructed social support from their partner or no social support before being exposed to a standardized psychosocial
stressor (Trier Social Stress Test). Attachment was determined using the Experiences in Close Relationships - Revised questionnaire (ECR-R). State anxiety, mood, and salivary cortisol levels were
repeatedly assessed before and after stress.

Results: Secure attachment was associated with stronger decreases in state anxiety levels following stress exposure.
More importantly, the combination of social support and secure attachment exhibited the lowest anxiety levels after stress (interaction effect). Social support alone reduced cortisol responses to stress, whereas secure attachment did not influence cortisol concentrations.

Conclusion: This first study on the interaction of adult attachment and social support in terms of psychological and
endocrine stress responses concurs with previous studies suggesting an important protective role of attachment for psychological stress responsiveness. However, attachment did not directly moderate cortisol responses to acute stress.

Objective: Adult attachment has been suggested to mediate the effect of social support on stress protection. The
purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of adult attachment and social support on psychological
and endocrine responses to psychosocial stress.

Methods: Sixty-three healthy men who were married or cohabiting were randomly assigned to receive either instructed social support from their partner or no social support before being exposed to a standardized psychosocial
stressor (Trier Social Stress Test). Attachment was determined using the Experiences in Close Relationships - Revised questionnaire (ECR-R). State anxiety, mood, and salivary cortisol levels were
repeatedly assessed before and after stress.

Results: Secure attachment was associated with stronger decreases in state anxiety levels following stress exposure.
More importantly, the combination of social support and secure attachment exhibited the lowest anxiety levels after stress (interaction effect). Social support alone reduced cortisol responses to stress, whereas secure attachment did not influence cortisol concentrations.

Conclusion: This first study on the interaction of adult attachment and social support in terms of psychological and
endocrine stress responses concurs with previous studies suggesting an important protective role of attachment for psychological stress responsiveness. However, attachment did not directly moderate cortisol responses to acute stress.

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65 citations in Web of Science®
72 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Adult attachment; Social support; Psychosocial stress; Anxiety; Cortisol
Language:English
Date:May 2008
Deposited On:12 Nov 2008 16:12
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:34
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0022-3999
Funders:Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Grant PP001-114788 (to M.H.), Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Fellowship PBZH1-108392 (to B.D.)
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2007.11.011
Official URL:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00223999
PubMed ID:18440400
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-5410

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