Oregon study links physical violence, stress hormone in women

December 22, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. -- Dec. 22, 2014 -- A new study links physical violence against women by male partners to a disruption of a key steroid hormone that opens the door potentially to a variety of negative health effects.

The study by the University of Oregon and the Oregon Social Learning Center looked at daily fluctuations of cortisol levels in men and women. Cortisol was drawn from saliva samples of 122 couples during on-site assessments and four times a day -- upon waking up, 30 minutes later, in mid to late afternoon and at bedtime -- over four consecutive days.

Cortisol levels typically rise as people wake up, peak shortly thereafter and then decline rapidly. Researchers compared the cortisol levels with the frequency of interpersonal violence as reported by both partners in the relationships.

In the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, the researchers noted a disruption from normal diurnal (daily) cortisol rhythms only in women as seen by a slower decline through the afternoons and higher-than-normal levels late in the day.

Researchers for years have suspected that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) regulatory system, which controls cortisol production in response to stress, is adversely influenced by violence.

"Existing studies have focused on the women's HPA-axis activity only," said the study's lead author Hyoun K. Kim, a scientist at the Oregon Social Learning Center and courtesy researcher in the UO Department of Psychology. "We indeed found that women's, but not men's, victimization was associated with multiple indicators of diurnal cortisol levels. It has been argued that interpersonal violence is more detrimental for women than for men, and our study suggests that it might indeed be due to disruptions in HPA-axis activity."

Men in the study were recruited in 1983, when they were 9 to 10 years old, for the Oregon Social Learning Center's longitudinal Oregon Youth Study. They were drawn from mostly lower socioeconomic status families living in neighborhoods with higher-than-average juvenile delinquency. Their romantic partners were incorporated in a separate couples' study when the men reached 17 to 18 years of age. Deborah M. Capaldi, a research scientist at the Oregon Social Learning Center is the principal investigator of the study.

The study's duration and large community-based sample size -- not just data from women seeking help at shelters as in similar studies -- make for robust findings, said J. Josh Snodgrass, a biological anthropologist at the UO. He currently is studying the relationships of various biomarkers, including cortisol, to health in populations around the world.

"We think we captured a good window on the subjects' everyday rhythms," said Snodgrass, who was invited by the non-profit center to coordinate cortisol sampling and analysis. "There are fluctuations, such as may occur on a very bad day, but it's minor and on the margins; they are easy to weed out when you have four days. It's a high-quality sample. We think it's the environmental and behavioral pieces that are influencing the cortisol rhythms.

The findings, the six co-authors said, show a correlation between violence and cortisol levels in women. However, they do not rule out the possibility that abnormal cortisol cycling may contribute to interpersonal violence.

"There are studies that show that dysregulated HPA axis activity is related to behavioral problems in children," Kim said. "We cited some studies that showed that cortisol is related to interpersonal violence in men, but that finding is also based on a cross-sectional design with a very small sample of violent men and limited methods."

The team, she noted, is now looking at the women's dysregulated daily cortisol rhythms for connections to subsequent physical and psychological outcomes to confirm a gender specific vulnerability to interpersonal violence in relationships.
-end-
Additional co-authors with Capaldi, Kim and Snodgrass are Stacey S. Tiberio, and Joann Wu Shortt of the Oregon Social Learning Center and doctoral student Erica C. Squires of the UO's anthropology and human physiology departments.

National Institutes of Health grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (R01DA015485 and P50DA035763), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01AA018669), and National Institute of Child Health and Development (HD46364) supported the research.

Sources: J. Josh Snodgrass, associate professor of anthropology, 541-346-4823, jjosh@uoregon.edu; Hyoun K. Kim, research scientist, Oregon Social Learning Center, 541-485-2711, hyounk@oslc.org

Note: The University of Oregon has an on-campus television studio with a point-of-origin Vyvx connection that provides broadcast-quality video to networks worldwide via fiber optic network. The UO also has video access to satellite uplink and audio access to an ISDN codec for broadcast-quality radio interviews.

Paper's abstract: http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530%2814%2900353-9/abstract

About Snodgrass: http://www.pinniped.net/snodgrass.html

Department of Anthropology: http://pages.uoregon.edu/anthro/

About Kim: http://www.oslc.org/scientists/hyoun-k-kim/

Oregon Social Learning Center: http://www.oslc.org/

UO Department of Psychology: http://psychology.uoregon.edu/

UO Department of Human Physiology: http://physiology.uoregon.edu/

Couples' study: http://www.oslc.org/projects/couples/

Original Youth Study: http://www.oslc.org/projects/oregon-youth-study/

University of Oregon

Related Violence Articles from Brightsurf:

Combined intimate partner violence that includes sexual violence is common & more damaging
Women who experience sexual violence combined with other forms of intimate partner violence suffer greater damage to their health and are much more likely to attempt suicide, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Bristol's Centre for Academic Primary Care published in the International Journal of Epidemiology today [12 November 2020].

As farming developed, so did cooperation -- and violence
The growth of agriculture led to unprecedented cooperation in human societies, a team of researchers, has found, but it also led to a spike in violence, an insight that offers lessons for the present.

The front line of environmental violence
Environmental defenders on the front line of natural resource conflict are being killed at an alarming rate, according to a University of Queensland study.

What can trigger violence in postcolonial Africa?
Why do civil wars and coups d'├ętat occur more frequently in some sub-Saharan African countries than others.

Another victim of violence: Trust in those who mean no harm
Exposure to violence does not change the ability to learn who is likely to do harm, but it does damage the ability to place trust in 'good people,' psychologists at Yale and University of Oxford report April 26 in the journal Nature Communications

Victims of gun violence tell their stories: Everyday violence, 'feelings of hopelessness'
Invited to share their personal stories, victims of urban gun violence describe living with violence as a 'common everyday experience' and feeling abandoned by police and other societal institutions, reports a study in the November/December Journal of Trauma Nursing, official publication of the Society of Trauma Nurses.

Does more education stem political violence?
In a study released online today in Review of Educational Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, three Norwegian researchers attempt to bring clarity to this question by undertaking the first systematic examination of quantitative research on this topic.

Teen dating violence is down, but boys still report more violence than girls
When it comes to teen dating violence, boys are more likely to report being the victim of violence -- being hit, slapped, or pushed--than girls.

Preventing murder by addressing domestic violence
Victims of domestic violence are at a high risk to be murdered -- or a victim of attempted murder -- according to a Cuyahoga County task force of criminal-justice professionals, victim advocates and researchers working to prevent domestic violence and homicides.

'Love displaces violence'
Art historian Eva-Bettina Krems on persistent motifs of peace in art from antiquity to the present day -- dove, rainbow or victory of love: artists draw on recurring motifs.

Read More: Violence News and Violence Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.