Biological Bases of Tend and Befriend
Many scientists now believe that there is an affiliative neurocircuitry that prompts affiliation especially in response to stress. Research suggests that this system regulates social approach behavior, much as hunger, thirst, or sexual drives are biologically regulated. A biological basis for this regulation appears to be oxytocin.
Oxytocin has been tied to a broad array of social relationships and activities, including peer bonding, sexual activity, and affiliative preferences. Oxytocin is released in humans in response to at least some stressors, especially those that may trigger affiliative needs. Oxytocin prompts affiliative behavior, including maternal tending and social contact with peers. Thus affiliation under stress serves tending needs, including protective response towards offspring, and may also take the form of befriending, namely seeking social contact for one's own protection, the protection of offspring, and the protection of the social group. These social responses to threat reduce biological stress responses, including elevated heart rate, blood pressures, and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis stress responses, such as cortisol.
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