Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Human Development and Family Studies


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff


It is important to clearly define stress and social support in order to better understand how the body regulates when under stressful conditions because stress has implications for treatment and coping interventions. The widely known stress hormone cortisol is frequently used as an index of the body’s abilty to regulate itself during stress because cortisol has a profound impact on health and development. Consistently, strong evidence from research has found that social support from affiliated others serve as a buffer of stress, and certain types of social support may enhance stress regulation more than others. Self-report subjective measurements of stress can provide valuable information on saliency of the stressor, however the chance of response biases is possible due to a number of contributing factors that entails answering questionnaires. The same can be found for subjective social support self-report measurements. In addition to external factors of social support, recent research has found that oxytocin, known as the social bonding hormone, can also buffer the negative impact of stress and attenuate cortisol activity. Typically, when social support is provided, endogenous levels of oxytocin is increased in stressful moments. In this thesis study, I presented a theoretical model to examine moderating effects of different social support measures on the association between stress and cortisol levels in romanticly dating couples. The findings showed that perceived social support moderately buffered cortisol stress reactivity, while nonverbal behavioral support significantly buffered cortisol stress reactivity. Oxytocin reactivity and level of exposure only showed a trend effect on cortisol stress reactivity. Consummate love between the couples significantly buffered cortisol stress reactivity. The findings of this study gave empirical support for specific measures of social support in predicting cortisol reactivity to psychosocial stress in each of its own way.


Copyright Owner

Jenny Mai Phan



File Format


File Size

91 pages