Oxytocin and cortisol in romantically unattached young adults: Associations with bonding and psychological distress


  • This research was supported by the U.S.–Israel Bi-national Science Foundation (2005/273).

Address reprint requests to: Ruth Feldman, Department of Psychology and the Gonda Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, 52900, Israel. E-mail: feldman@mail.biu.ac.il


Despite extensive research on the involvement of oxytocin (OT) in mammalian bonding, less is known about its role in human social affiliation across the life cycle. Forty-five romantically unattached young adults participated. Plasma oxytocin and salivary cortisol were assessed using enzyme immuno-assay, and self-report measures of bonding, attachment, anxiety, and depression were collected. Oxytocin was associated with bonding to own parents and inversely related to psychological distress, particularly depressive symptoms. Cortisol was related to attachment anxiety. Regression analysis indicated that the adult's representations of bonding to parents predicted OT levels above and beyond cortisol, psychological distress, and attachment. Findings are consistent with antistress models of oxytocin and suggest that oxytocin may play a role in bonding-related cognitions across the life span.