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Psychophysiology. 2007 May;44(3):444-9. Epub 2007 Mar 19.

Anxiety, cortisol, and attachment predict plasma oxytocin.

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Centre for Child and Family Studies, University of Leiden, NL-2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands.


Oxytocin and attachment seem to interact in suppressing subjective anxiety and physiological stress responses. In this study we investigated the relationships between individual differences in trait attachment scores, state and trait anxiety, plasma cortisol, and plasma oxytocin levels in healthy premenopausal women. Attachment proved to be a strong positive predictor of oxytocin levels, which were also positively predicted by cortisol levels and state and trait anxiety. The relationship between oxytocin and state anxiety was modulated by attachment scores. The present results may help interpreting seeming contradictions in the recent literature on oxytocin, attachment, and stress in humans, by suggesting that context effects determine which relationships are found in different studies: anxiolytic effects of oxytocin in a context of partner support versus stress- or cortisol-induced oxytocin responses in a context of distress or increased cortisol.

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