Salivary cortisol levels during social challenge relate to adaptive functioning in children and adults. Low cortisol levels have been related to conduct problems and antisocial behavior. Although studies in rodents implicate early-life social experience in cortisol regulation, no studies with humans have examined the effects of an experimentally manipulated early-life social experience on cortisol regulation.
To examine the effects of experimental manipulations of social experience on cortisol response to a social challenge in preschoolers at risk for antisocial behavior.
Randomized controlled trial.
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine.
Ninety-two preschool-age siblings of youths adjudicated for delinquent acts. Intervention Family-based intervention included 22 weekly group sessions for parents and preschoolers and 10 biweekly home visits conducted during a 6- to 8-month period.
Salivary cortisol levels before and after a social challenge (entry into an unfamiliar peer group).
Relative to controls, children in the intervention condition had increased cortisol levels in anticipation of the peer social challenge. Increases were relative to both preintervention cortisol levels during the challenge and cortisol levels in the home, which were not altered by the intervention.
A family-based preventive intervention for children at high risk for antisocial behavior alters stress response in anticipation of a peer social challenge. The experimentally induced change in cortisol levels parallels patterns found in normally developing, low-risk children.
"Aspects of experience that promote this flexible regulation assist the individual in meeting stressful contingencies in the future (Lyons & Parker, 2007). In evaluations of exemplary intervention programs focusing on parenting in high risk contexts, beneficial effects on child physiology as well as behavior have been demonstrated (Brotman et al., 2007; Fisher, Gunnar, Dozier, Bruce, & Pears, 2006). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cortisol output in response to emotion induction procedures was examined at child age 24 months in a prospective longitudinal sample of 1,292 children and families in predominantly low-income and nonurban communities in two regions of high poverty in the United States. Multilevel analysis indicated that observed emotional reactivity to a mask presentation but not a toy removal procedure interacted with sensitive parenting to predict cortisol levels in children. For children experiencing high levels of sensitive parenting, cortisol output was high among children exhibiting high emotional reactivity and low among children exhibiting low emotional reactivity. For children experiencing low levels of sensitive parenting, cortisol output was unrelated to emotional reactivity. (PsycINFO Database Record
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"Finally, to gain a better understanding of the relationship between ACEs and BP, research should focus on older adolescents, ideally tracking them over time to evaluate whether the effect on BP occurs in later years and whether it is preceded by changes in BMI and WC. Danese & McEwen argue that the adverse effects of ACEs in childhood can be reversible if the child’s environment is returned to a stable state [33,38,39]. This suggests that studies should examine how these risks can be mitigated among children and whether this can reduce the potential long-term health consequences shown repeatedly in studies among adults. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as abuse, household dysfunction, and neglect, have been shown to increase adults' risk of developing chronic conditions and risk factors for chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease (CVD). Much less work has investigated the effect of ACEs on children's physical health status that may lead to adult chronic health conditions. Therefore, the present study examined the relationship between ACEs and early childhood risk factors for adult cardiovascular disease.
1 234 grade six to eight students participated in school-based data collection, which included resting measures of blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR), body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC). Parents of these children completed an inventory of ACEs taken from the Childhood Trust Events Survey. Linear regression models were used to assess the relationship between experiencing more than 4 ACEs experienced, systolic BP, HR, BMI and WC. In additional analysis, ACEs were assessed ordinally in their relationship with systolic BP, HR, and BMI as well as clinical obesity and hypertension status.
After adjustment for family education, income, age, sex, physical activity, and parental history of hypertension, and WC for HR models, four or more ACEs had a significant effect on HR (b = 1.8 bpm, 95% CI (0.1-3.6)) BMI (b =1.1 kg/m2, 95% CI (0.5-1.8)), and WC (b = 3.6 cm, 95% CI (1.8-5.3)). A dose--response relationship between ACE accumulation and both BMI and WC was also found to be significant. Furthermore, accumulation of 4 or more ACEs was significantly associated with clinical obesity (95th percentile), after controlling for the aforementioned covariates.
In a community sample of grade six to eight children, accumulation of 4 or more ACEs significantly increased BMI, WC and resting HR. Therefore, risk factors related to reported associations between ACEs and cardiovascular outcomes among adults are identifiable in childhood suggesting earlier interventions to reduce CVD risk are required.
"Randomized experimental studies offer a powerful way to assess the plasticity of the neuroendocrine system following childhood adversity. Recent studies offer preliminary evidence that interventions with high-risk children may prevent or reverse dysregulated patterns of cortisol output in the short (Brotman et al. 2007; Fisher et al. 2007) and long term (Luecken et al. 2010). While the results of these trials are promising, little is known about the mechanisms by which adversity leads to cortisol alterations, or the most effective methods by which interventions might prevent or change those relations. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We recently reported that a randomized controlled trial of a family-focused intervention for parentally bereaved youth predicted higher cortisol output 6 years later relative to a control group of bereaved youth (Luecken et al., Psychoneuroendocrinology 35, 785-789, 2010). The current study evaluated longitudinal mediators of the intervention effect on cortisol 6 years later. Parentally bereaved children (N = 139; mean age, 11.4; SD = 2.4; age range = 8-16 years; male; 61 % Caucasian, 17 % Hispanic, 7 % African American, and 15 % other ethnicities) were randomly assigned to the 12-week preventive intervention (n = 78) or a self-study control (n = 61) condition. Six years later (mean age, 17.5; SD, 2.4), cortisol was sampled as youth participated in a parent-child conflict interaction task. Using four waves of data across the 6 years, longitudinal mediators of the program impact on cortisol were evaluated. Program-induced increases in positive parenting, decreases in child exposure to negative life events, and lower externalizing symptoms significantly mediated the intervention effect on cortisol 6 years later.
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