2. Department of Developmental Social Medicine, Mie University Graduate School of Medicine, Mie, Japan.
Background: Children with poor communication skills, such as autism, are known to have lower levels of oxytocin. However, reports on the association between social behavior and oxytocin levels in children are scarce. Similarly, few studies have shown the association between child temperament and oxytocin levels. The purpose of this study was to investigate the association of child temperament and social behavior with levels of oxytocin.
Methods: Urine samples from 23 healthy Japanese children (13 boys, 10 girls) aged 23–48 months were used to measure oxytocin levels. Temperament and behavior were assessed using the Toddler Temperament Scale (TTS) and the Strength and Difficulty Questionnaire (SDQ), respectively. The association of temperament and behavior with levels of oxytocin were analyzed.
Results: A child's persistence temperament was significantly inversely associated with oxytocin (Pearson's correlation (r)=−0.52, p=0.01), and remained significant even after adjusted for covariates (partial correlation=−0.63, p=0.007). Among SDQ subscales, peer problems were inversely associated (r=−0.60, p=0.002), while prosocial behavior was positively associated (r=0.53, p=0.01) with oxytocin, although the associations became weaker after adjusting for covariates. Other TTS and SDQ subscales were not associated with oxytocin.
Conclusion: A child's persistence temperament and behavior related to peer problems were inversely associated with oxytocin levels, while prosocial behavior was positively associated with oxytocin levels. Further research is needed to elucidate the mechanism of child temperament and behavior via oxytocin.
Keywords: Oxytocin, temperament, prosocial behavior, difficult behavior, toddlers, autistic spectrum disorders