Research has shown the significance of social relationships in influencing adult human behavior and health; however, little is known about how children’s perception of their social networks correlates with stress and how it may influence development. Now, a University of Missouri research team has determined that children and adolescents physically react to their social networks and the stress those networks may cause. Scientists believe that the quality and size of the social relationships nurtured in childhood may have important physiological consequences for physical and mental health for youth.
Cortisol and salivary alpha-amylase are secreted in response to outside pressure or tension. A part of the autonomic nervous system, release of cortisol in the system is quick, unconscious and can be measured in saliva; therefore, measuring cortisol is a good indicator of stress in the body, said Mark V. Flinn, professor of biomedical anthropology and chair of the Department of Anthropology in the MU College of Arts and Science.