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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011 Jul;36(6):771-9. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.10.014. Epub 2010 Nov 23.

Examining the association between adult attachment style and cortisol responses to acute stress.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


The quality of social relationships may contribute to variations in biological stress responses, thereby affecting health risk. The association between an important indicator of social relationships, adult attachment style, and cortisol has been relatively unexplored. The present study examined adult romantic attachment style and cortisol responses to acute laboratory stress. Salivary cortisol was measured in response to two behavioural tasks, a colour/word interference task and mirror tracing task, in 498 healthy men and women from the Heart Scan study, a subsample of the Whitehall II cohort. Participants were classified as secure, fearful, preoccupied or dismissive on the basis of responses to the Relationship Questionnaire. Cortisol output was lowest in the fearful group, followed by the preoccupied group, with both secure and dismissive groups having higher levels. The results from this study tentatively support the proposition that attachment style is a factor in determining the manifestation of HPA dysregulation.

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