Effects of early stress on adult affiliative behavior

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1998 Nov;23(8):863-75. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4530(98)00058-4.


The recently evolved mammalian species preservative behavior as opposed to the ancient self preservative behavior involves parental care, nursing, social interaction, pair bonding and mutual defense. Gonadal steroids together with oxytocin are critical for this affiliative, attachment behavior. When there is stressful loss of control, gonadotrophins are diminished, and the self preservative, fight-flight catecholamine coping response takes priority. It is suggested that self preservation is associated with left hemispheric brain function and that species preservation is associated with right hemispheric function. Stress during infancy that is severe enough to create insecure attachment has a dissociative effect, disrupting right hemispheric emotional functioning and species preservative behavior, and a permanent bias towards self preservation can become an adult trait. In such a person with impaired affiliation, corticoid responses may be deficient. The coronary type A behavior pattern common in our society exhibits some of this deficiency in species preservative activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiopathology
  • Object Attachment*
  • Oxytocin / physiology
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Personality Development*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*


  • Oxytocin