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Research led by the University of New Mexico suggests that natural disasters like Hurrican Katrina change stress physiology and behavior two months after the disaster. When compared to matched controls without trauma, exposed teenage refugees of both sexes showed moderated lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and slightly higher levels of alpha-amylase, a new stress biomarker linked to  fight-flight-freeze responses. The sexes differed more in terms of females lower self-esteem and higher internalizing behaviors (e.g., moodiness) compared to males lower aggression. These sex differences are thought to represent different evolutionary behaviors meant to facilitate adaption to traumatic events within distressing social contexts. Specifically, the social expression of distress utilized differently among the sexes are meant to maximally mobilize coping resources.

Title: Sex differences in salivary cortisol, alpha-amylase, and psychological functioning following Hurricane Katrina.

Authors: Jacob M. Vigil, Douglas A. Granger, David C. Geary, Mark V. Flinn

Journal: Child Development, July/August 2010, Vol. 81, Pg. 1228-1240.