Mother-daughter tiff? Blame low serotonin level

March 7th, 2008 - 4:28 pm ICT by admin  


Washington, March 7 (IANS) Mother-daughter tiffs are nothing new but blame it on low serotonin levels, an important brain chemical linked with moods. University of Washington (UW) researchers said both these factors account for 64 percent of the difference among adolescents, primarily girls engaging in destructive behaviour and those who do not, according to a UW press release.

“Girls who engage in self-harm are at high risk for attempting suicide, and some of them are dying,” said Theodore Beauchaine of the UW and co-author of the study. “There is no better predictor of suicide than previous suicide attempts.”

The paper, co-authored by Sheila Crowell, one of his doctoral students, appears in the current issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Beauchaine said the relationship between mother-daughter conflict and self-harming behaviour was not strong. There was a stronger relationship between serotonin levels and self-harming behaviour. When both factors were considered together, the relationship to self-harming behaviours was very strong.

To probe such relationships, researchers recruited 20 adolescents with a history of destructive behaviour and 21 age-matched adolescents who did not harm themselves.

Adolescents were considered self-injuring, if they had harmed themselves three or more times in the past six months or five or more times in their lifetime. The mean age of both groups was 15 years and the participants were predominantly white. There were two boys in each group.

Each mother and child separately filled out questionnaires examining the adolescent’s mental health and self-injurious behaviours, and one that identified areas of conflict between parents and teenagers.

To assess negativity in each parent-child relationship, the researchers selected a topic that both parties said was a serious issue.

“You would think that they would be civil to each other in this kind of situation, but many of these topics were hot and within five minutes some of our subjects were arguing with each other,” Beauchaine said.

He said most of the teenage participants in the study were girls because self-inflicted injuries are far more common among girls.

Mothers, rather than fathers, were chosen because research has shown that the relationship between girls and mothers is usually closer than it is between daughters and fathers.

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