In Search of an Adult Attachment Stress Provocation to Measure Effect on the Oxytocin System: A Pilot Validation Study

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Oxytocin is a promising biomarker for psychiatric conditions arising from early relational trauma, childhood maltreatment, and attachment dysregulation, including posttraumatic stress and dissociative disorders.


This exploratory pilot study examined plasma oxytocin as a biomarker for alterations in the attachment system.


We used a single group, repeated-measures design with 15 women. The protocol used a film clip previously validated as a provocation to the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.


The repeated-measures ANOVA showed differences in oxytocin across the three time points. Correlations with oxytocin indicated that measures of dissociation and somatization correlated most strongly with higher levels of oxytocin measured during exposure to the film's bonding scene and posttraumatic stress disorder correlated most strongly with lower levels at the film's abandonment scene. Post hoc analyses revealed differences in oxytocin response related to psychopathology.


Replication studies should characterize participants on a range of psychiatric conditions associated with attachment dysregulation.

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