Social buffering is the ability of an individual to lower or block a close social partner’s physiological response to stress. It is unknown whether friends can buffer children and adolescents’ responses to stress both before and after puberty, and whether buffering by friends differs in boys and girls. The current study will examine these questions using a study of 30 9-10 year old boys and girls and 30 15-16 year old boys and girls asked to prepare for a stressful task with a friend. This task, called the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) involves a public speaking task and a math task conducted in front of judges, which consistently provokes increases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol (Yim, Quas, Cahill & Hayakawa, 2010). Friends assist the participant with speech preparation immediately before the speech, and a variety of behaviors were coded, including: validation, humor, distraction, and sensitivity. In addition, participants provided saliva samples for cortisol assay before speech preparation and every 10 minutes thereafter. After analyses were conducted, this study presented both age and sex differences in a variety of friendship behaviors: positive support, peer/participant anxiety, and humor/distraction. Statistically marginal effects indicate that larger samples were needed in each age/sex group to adequately test our predictions. In addition, peer support did not correlate with cortisol responses; although peer/participant anxiety did. Other measures of stress might have been more sensitive to peer support and should be examined. Considering the pivotal role that peers play in development, especially during the stressful period of adolescence, this is an essential area of future developmental research. Furthermore, taking age and gender into account will deepen the understanding of peer relationships across development.
This research was supported by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).
Pauling, Sydney N.; Doom, Jenalee R.; Gunnar, Megan R..
Gender Differences in Buffering Stress Responses in Same-Sex Friend Dyads.
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