Category: Parenting / Families

Symposium

Peripheral Oxytocin Levels: Childhood Anxiety, Family Accommodation, and Treatment-Related Changes

Saturday, November 18
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom B, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Child Anxiety | Families | Change Process / Mechanisms
Presentation Type: Symposium

The hormone oxytocin is implicated in anxiety regulation and the modulation of close interpersonal attachment behavior. This talk will present previously unpublished findings on peripheral oxytocin levels of clinically anxious children (N=150). We found significant associations between children’s salivary oxytocin levels, anxiety symptoms, and family accommodation, or the changes that parents make to their own behavior to help a child avoid or alleviate distress related to anxiety. The role of sex in moderating associations between oxytocinergic functioning and anxiety will be discussed. The talk will also present novel data on treatment-related changes in anxious children’s oxytocinergic functioning following treatment. We examined salivary oxytocin levels in clinically anxious children before and after treatment with one of two psychological therapies: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or a parent-based treatment aimed at reducing family accommodation, Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE). The talk will discuss the impact of treatment on children’s oxytocinergic functioning and significant changes in oxytocin levels from before to after treatment. Clinical implications for treatment decision making, and scientific implications for understanding the neuroendocrinological mechanisms implicated in childhood anxiety disorders and the complex intra-family dynamics that characterize them, will be discussed. 

Eli R. Lebowitz

Assistant Professor
Yale University Child Study Center

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