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1.  Social Closeness Increases Salivary Progesterone in Humans 
Hormones and behavior  2009;56(1):108-111.
We examined whether interpersonal closeness increases salivary progesterone. One hundred and sixty female college students (80 dyads) were randomly assigned to participate in either a closeness task with a partner versus a neutral task with a partner. Those exposed to the closeness induction had higher levels of progesterone relative to those exposed to the neutral task. Across conditions, progesterone increase one week later predicted the willingness to sacrifice for the partner. These results are discussed in terms of the links between social contact, stress, and health.
PMCID: PMC2699766  PMID: 19362559
2.  Caregiving Behavior Is Associated With Decreased Mortality Risk 
Psychological science  2009;20(4):488-494.
Traditional investigations of caregiving link it to increased caregiver morbidity and mortality, but do not disentangle the effects of providing care from those of being continuously exposed to an ailing loved one with serious health problems. We explored this possible confound in a national, longitudinal survey of elderly married individuals (N = 3,376). Results showed that spending at least 14 hr per week providing care to a spouse predicted decreased mortality for the caregiver, independently of behavioral and cognitive limitations of the care recipient (spouse), and of other demographic and health variables. These findings suggest that it may be premature to conclude that health risks for caregivers are due to providing active help. Indeed, under some circumstances, caregivers may actually benefit from providing care.
PMCID: PMC2865652  PMID: 19320860
3.  In search of an adult attachment stress provocation to measure effect on the oxytocin system: A pilot validation study 
Oxytocin is a promising biomarker for psychiatric conditions arising from early relational trauma, childhood maltreatment, and attachment dysregulation, including posttraumatic stress and dissociative disorders.
This exploratory pilot study examined plasma oxytocin as a biomarker for alterations in the attachment system.
We used a single group, repeated-measures design with 15 women. The protocol used a film clip previously validated as a provocation to the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.
The repeated-measures ANOVA showed differences in oxytocin across the three time points. Correlations with oxytocin indicated that measures of dissociation and somatization correlated most strongly with higher levels of oxytocin measured during exposure to the film’s bonding scene and posttraumatic stress disorder correlated most strongly with lower levels at the film’s abandonment scene. Post hoc analyses revealed differences in oxytocin response related to psychopathology.
Replication studies should characterize participants on a range of psychiatric conditions associated with attachment dysregulation.
PMCID: PMC4214250  PMID: 23950541
oxytocin; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); biomarker; attachment; dissociation
4.  Parenting and Beyond: Common Neurocircuits Underlying Parental and Altruistic Caregiving 
Parenting, science and practice  2012;12(2-3):115-123.
Interpersonal relationships constitute the foundation on which human society is based. The infant-caregiver bond is the earliest and most influential of these relationships. Driven by evolutionary pressure for survival, parents feel compelled to provide care to their biological offspring. However, compassion for non-kin is also ubiquitous in human societies, motivating individuals to suppress their own self-interests to promote the well-being of non-kin members of the society. We argue that the process of early kinship-selective parental care provides the foundation for non-exclusive altruism via the activation of a general Caregiving System that regulates compassion in any of its forms. We propose a tripartite structure of this system that includes (1) the perception of need in another, (2) a caring motivational or feeling state, and (3) the delivery of a helping response to the individual in need. Findings from human and animal research point to specific neurobiological mechanisms including activation of the insula and the secretion of oxytocin that support the adaptive functioning of this Caregiving System.
PMCID: PMC3437260  PMID: 22971776
5.  Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2009;9(3):361-368.
Happiness – a composite of life satisfaction, coping resources, and positive emotions – predicts desirable life outcomes in many domains. The broaden-and-build theory suggests that this is because positive emotions help people build lasting resources. To test this hypothesis we measured emotions daily for one month in a sample of students (N=86) and assessed life satisfaction and trait resilience at the beginning and end of the month. Positive emotions predicted increases in both resilience and life satisfaction. Negative emotions had weak or null effects, and did not interfere with the benefits of positive emotions. Positive emotions also mediated the relation between baseline and final resilience, but life satisfaction did not. This suggests that it is in-the-moment positive emotions, and not more general positive evaluations of one’s life, that form the link between happiness and desirable life outcomes. Change in resilience mediated the relation between positive emotions and increased life satisfaction, suggesting that happy people become more satisfied not simply because they feel better, but because they develop resources for living well.
PMCID: PMC3126102  PMID: 19485613
happiness; life satisfaction; ego-resilience; broaden and build
6.  Does a Helping Hand Mean a Heavy Heart? Helping Behavior and Well-Being Among Spouse Caregivers 
Psychology and aging  2010;25(1):108-117.
Being a caregiver for an ill or disabled loved one is widely recognized as a threat to the caregiver’s quality of life. Nonetheless, research indicates that helping behavior, broadly construed, promotes well-being. Could helping behavior in a caregiving context promote well-being as well? In the present study, we used ecological momentary assessment to measure active helping behavior and both positive and negative affect in 73 spouse caregivers. Results indicate that when controlling for care recipient illness status and functional impairment and caregiver “on call” caregiving time, active helping predicted greater caregiver positive affect— especially for individuals who perceived themselves as interdependent with their spouse. In addition, although both helping and on-call time predicted greater negative affect for caregivers who perceived low interdependence, helping was unrelated to negative affect among caregivers perceiving high interdependence. Helping valued loved ones may promote caregivers’ well-being.
PMCID: PMC2865132  PMID: 20230132
caregiving; helping; well-being; positive affect; relationship interdependence

Results 1-6 (6)