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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Contributor
November 16, 2012

Teenage Girls Who Grow Up with Stressed Mothers May Have Higher Cortisol Levels in the Future

Your stress levels today may affect your daughter's health tomorrow. By Charlene J. Owen

 A mother’s connection to her child lasts long after the umbilical has been cut, so whatever she feels, her child senses. This is why it’s important for the mother to provide an atmosphere that fosters happiness and stability--if stress prevails in a household, the child suffers even years after.

This is what researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been working on. The population study currently featured on shows evidence that teenage girls who grew up with stressed mothers have higher levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone released in response to any kind of strain. Too much cortisol may cause depression, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.

Using resting-state functional connectivity (fcMRI) scans which show the brains’ resting state of 29 male and 28 female teenagers, the researchers looked for connections between the amygdala, which controls sensitivity to negative emotions, and the prefrontal cortex, which processes negative emotions. They found that girls who had weaker connections and higher cortisol levels in their saliva grew up with stressed mothers in a home full of anxiety. 

The study shows the importance of a well-balanced home and proper upbringing. Providing children with an environment conducive to growth and teaching them flexibility and resilience may help them process stress better in their older years. Being able to cope with tension-filled situations can lessen their risk of health conditions, ensuring them a better quality of life as well.  

(Photo by Rolands Lakis via Flickr Creative Commons; used for illustrative purposes only.)


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