MU study shows a child's interaction with peers affects their health

8 months 2 weeks 6 days ago May 02, 2016 May 2, 2016 Monday, May 02 2016 Monday, May 02, 2016 5:21:00 PM CDT in News
By: Laura Barczewski, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - In a 28-year study, researchers at MU found a child's social interactions affect their health.

"What we've been discovering is that a child's social world is in many ways the most important thing that's affecting their health," Mark Flinn, professor of biomedical anthropology, said. "What we have found is that the most important things in children's every day lives, that are resulting in elevations of stress, are social relationships." 

The stress from these relationships affects their hormone levels and mental health on a daily basis.

 

In a news release, the research team said it determined children physically react to their social networks and the stress those networks could cause.

For the study, Flinn and Davide Ponzi, a post-doctoral fellow who is now with the University of Utah, collected data from a sample of 40 children ages 5 to 12 who lived in a small village on the east coast of Dominica, according to a news release.

"To measure stress we have been collecting saliva samples, and from the saliva samples we can measure levels of different chemicals or homones," Flinn said.

Flinn added that Ponzi found the interview with a child influenced their stress hormone levels as well as talking about the size of the social group around them.

"So children with not so great social networks had higer levels of cortisol (stress hormone) when they came for the interview," Flinn said. 

Flinn said social networks include family members and friends that interact with the children on a daily basis.

"Our study was in line with past research on stress, loneliness and social support in adults, but we strengthened past research by applying it to children," Flinn said.

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