Megan R. Gunnar's research while affiliated with University of Minnesota Twin Cities and other places

Publications (353)

Article
Parents of young children were a subgroup of the population identified early in the pandemic as experiencing significant mental-health symptoms. Using a longitudinal sample of 3,085 parents from across the United States who had a child or children age 0 to 5, in the present study, we identified parental mental-health trajectories from April to Nove...
Article
A total of 513 children were included in this secondary analysis of data from the NET-Works trial of low income children at risk for obesity. The purpose of the analysis was to examine HCC longitudinally over 5 assessments from early through middle childhood with the goal of i) determining if there were racial/ethnic differences in HCC, and if so,...
Article
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has been recognized to provide rare insight to advance the scientific un- derstanding of early life adversity, such as material hardship. During the COVID-19 pandemic, material hardship (i.e., difficulty paying for basic needs) in families of young children has had detrimental effects on caregivers’ and children’s...
Article
Background Household food insecurity (FI) is a pressing social, economic and public health issue. However, little is known regarding the effect of FI exposure during the first few years of life, the most active postnatal time for neurobiological and physiological development, on patterns of weight gain during early childhood. It is also unknown whe...
Article
As the science of adversity and resilience advances, and public awareness of the health consequences of stress grows, primary care providers are being increasingly asked to address the effects of adverse experiences on child wellbeing. Given limited tools for assessing these effects early in life, the authors explore how enhanced capacity to measur...
Article
Full-text available
Age and gender differences are prominent in the temperament literature, with the former particularly salient in infancy and the latter noted as early as the first year of life. This study represents a meta-analysis utilizing Infant Behavior Questionnaire-Revised (IBQ-R) data collected across multiple laboratories ( N = 4438) to overcome limitations...
Article
Background: Height growth faltering is associated with less optimal behavioral outcomes and educational achievement. Although catch-up growth after growth delay may result in developmental gains, it may also present as a double-edged sword, with consequences for neurocognitive functioning such as symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity. As previ...
Article
Decades of human and animal research demonstrates that stress responsive neuroendocrine systems calibrate to the harshness of environmental conditions during fetal and early postnatal life. Emerging evidence indicates that if conditions change markedly over childhood, the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis may recalibrate during puberty, ano...
Article
Informed by the National Institute of Mental Health's Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) and developmental psychopathology frameworks, the current study used cortisol area under the curve with respect to ground (AUCg) as an index of differential sensitivity to context, which was expected to predispose young children with elevated vulnerability to adve...
Article
The current study investigated whether recalibration of the hypothalamic-pituitary -adrenocortical (HPA) axis stress response in youth who had previously experienced early life stress (ELS) would predict socioemotional adjustment in a follow-up assessment approximately 2-4 years later when youth were 12- to 21-years old. The sample consisted of pre...
Article
The effect of experiences in infancy on human development is a central question in developmental science. Children raised in orphanage-like institutions for their first year or so of life and then adopted into well-resourced and supportive families provide a lens on the long-term effects of early deprivation and the capacity of children to recover...
Article
Background: Although a very heterogeneous group, adopted persons may present developmental and mental health problems of varying severity. Pre-placement adversity and trauma have often been linked to these problems. It has been also suggested that adoption itself is a psychological trauma, predisposing the individual to emotional difficulties. Ob...
Article
Recent research has suggested that the pubertal period provides an opportunity for recalibrating the stress‐responsive systems in youth whose responses to stress have been altered by early adversity. Such recalibration may have cascading effects that affect brain and behavioral development. In this article, we consider a large, cross‐species litera...
Article
The current study investigated the association between cortisol stress reactivity to a social stressor and observed socially anxious behaviors both concurrently and over time among previously institutionalized (PI) (N = 132; ages 7–17) youth and a comparison non-adopted (NA) sample (N = 176). Cortisol reactivity was captured during the Trier Social...
Article
Current and early life stress (ELS) are associated with diurnal cortisol patterns, which themselves are associated with mental and physical health. The pubertal recalibration hypothesis suggests that the social environment can impact dysregulated cortisol patterns for previously ELS‐exposed youth as they transition through puberty. This study exami...
Article
Institutional care has been shown to increase the risk of attention problems in children, but some children are more sensitive to their environment, both for better and for worse. With this in mind, the current study examined the moderating role of temperament (falling reactivity) between early adversity and attention skills. Six- to 15-month-old i...
Article
Introduction The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) is the most widely used protocol for activating a stress response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis and other stress-mediating systems. A number of variants of the TSST exist, including ones for children, groups, and virtual reality. All of these versions, though, require in-per...
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Psychosocial acceleration theory and other frameworks adapted from life history predict a link between early life stress and accelerated maturation in several physiological systems. Those findings led researchers to suggest that the emotion-regulatory brain circuits of previously-institutionalized (PI) youth are more mature than youth raised in the...
Article
The influence of socioeconomic variability on language and cognitive development is present from toddlerhood to adolescence and calls for investigating its earliest manifestation. Response to joint attention (RJA) abilities constitute a foundational developmental milestone that are associated with future language, cognitive, and social skills. How...
Article
The current study tested the hypothesis that variation in parental emotional support explains differences in cortisol reactivity among 159 youth, including both previously institutionalized (PI; N = 78) and non‐adopted (NA; N = 81) children (ages 9–10) and adolescents (ages 15–16). Youth participated in a Modified Trier Social Stress Test after a p...
Method
Full-text available
This proof-of-concept study determined that a standard laboratory protocol used to induce a cortisol response continued to work in an online data collection platform. Methods manual here, but full report in press: “Validation of an Online Version of the Trier Social Stress Test in a Study of Adolescents” by Megan R. Gunnar, Brie M. Reid, Bonny Donz...
Article
Megan Gunnar's pubertal stress recalibration hypothesis was supported in a recent study of previously institutionalized (PI) youth such that increases in pubertal stage were associated with increases in cortisol stress reactivity. This work provides evidence that puberty may open up a window of recalibration for PI youth, resulting in a shift from...
Article
Understanding individual differences in neural responses to stressful environments is an important avenue of research throughout development. These differences may be especially critical during adolescence, which is characterized by opportunities for healthy development and increased susceptibility to the development of psychopathology. While the n...
Article
Abstract Early adverse care has long-term impacts on physical and mental health. The influence of rearing conditions on the infant's gut microbiota and its relationship with developmental health has become more evident. The microbiome is essential for normal growth and metabolism, and the signaling from the gut to the brain may underlie individual...
Preprint
This study examined whether early life adversity (ELA) limited to infancy was associated with an increase in circulating levels of proinflammatory cytokines and cellular cytokine responses to three stimulants [lipopolysaccharide (LPS), phytohemagglutinin (PHA), and phorbol myristate acetate plus ionomycin (PMA/IO)]. Participants were previously ins...
Article
This chapter outlines the essential features of normal prenatal brain development in humans, reviews the primary methods for studying brain development, summarizes findings on the effects and mechanisms of prenatal stress (PS), and considers factors that might buffer against PS and promote resilience. Because experimental studies of typical and aty...
Article
Socioeconomic status (SES) appears to be an important contextual factor in children's developmental outcomes, including their responses to stress. However, some children are more susceptible to its effects than others. Hair cortisol is a newer method of assessing the activity of the HPA axis, providing cumulative cortisol levels. The present articl...
Article
As a period of heightened plasticity, puberty may provide a window of opportunity for recalibration of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to current conditions. Our group has recently documented evidence for pubertal recalibration of HPA axis reactivity among children internationally adopted as infants from institutions into supportive,...
Article
Early institutional-deprivation has been found to increase risk for inattention/hyperactivity (ADHD). Notably, studies suggest that children with a history of adversity evidencing an enhanced ERP (the error-related-negativity; ERN) may be protected against attention problems. However, such protective effects of the ERN have been studied in children...
Article
Although the Children's Behavior Questionnaire (CBQ; Rothbart, Ahadi, Hershey, & Fisher, 2001) is the most popular assessment for childhood temperament, its psychometric qualities have yet to be examined using Item Response Theory (IRT) methods. These methods highlight in detail the specific contributions of individual items for measuring different...
Article
Worldwide, millions of children live in institutions, which runs counter to both the UN-recognised right of children to be raised in a family environment, and the findings of our accompanying systematic review of the physical, neurobiological, psychological, and mental health costs of institutionalisation and the benefits of deinstitutionalisation...
Article
Full-text available
Stressful experiences affect biological stress systems, such as the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. Life stress can potentially alter regulation of the HPA axis and has been associated with poorer physical and mental health. Little, however, is known about the relative influence of stressors that are encountered at different developmenta...
Article
Previously institutionalized children on average show persistent deficits in physiological and behavioral regulation, as well as a lack of normative reticence towards strangers, or disinhibited social engagement (DSE). Post-adoption parenting, specifically a combination of supportive presence and structure/limit-setting, may protect against DSE ove...
Article
Approximately 3.5 million children in the United States were reported to Child Protective Services in 2016. Effective, developmentally-informed programs are critically necessary to support under-resourced families at risk of child abuse. This study implemented a module of mindfulness-based stress reduction strategies in partnership with a community...
Chapter
Full-text available
Over a half century of research using animal models has documented the impact of early-life stress on neurobehavioral development. In this chapter we review research on the impact of pre- and postnatal stress in human development. We consider questions of whether the findings are consistent with the concept of fetal programming and whether programm...
Article
There is clear evidence that early deprivation in the form of early institutional care affects children both immediately and long after they are removed from the institution. This article reviews the modern literature on the impact of institutional care from animal models to longitudinal studies in humans. Importantly, we examine the current unders...
Article
Full-text available
Investigating the developmental sequelae of early life stress has provided researchers the opportunity to examine adaptive responses to extreme environments. A large body of work has established mechanisms by which the stressful experiences of childhood poverty, maltreatment, and institutional care can impact the brain and the distributed stress sy...
Article
Nonhuman animal models reveal that the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical (HPA) axis calibrates to the harshness of the environment during a sensitive period in infancy. Humans exposed to depriving institutional care in infancy show reduced HPA axis responsivity, even years after they are placed in supportive, well-resourced families. This study...
Article
Children reared in orphanages typically experience the lack of stable, reliable caregivers and are at increased risk for deficits in regulatory abilities including difficulties in inhibitory control, attention, and emotion regulation. Although adoption results in a radical shift in caregiving quality, there remains variation in postadoption parenti...
Article
Neglect is a common and frequently chronic form of child maltreatment that can compromise child development and increase the risk of physical and psychological problems. In this review, we discuss one of the potential ways neglect becomes biologically embedded by shaping the development of a key stress responsive system: namely, the hypothalamic-pi...
Article
Children who have experienced institutional care early in life tend to show deficits in behavioral and adrenocortical regulation that impact their ability to form friendships and have positive social interactions with peers. Understanding how post‐institutionalized children interact with unfamiliar peers and the factors that predict the quality of...
Article
Background: The cholinergic system has an important role in mood regulation. Cholinesterase inhibitor pesticides (e.g. organophosphates) appear to increase depression and anxiety symptoms in the few existing animal and human studies. Human studies have not described such associations using biomarkers of exposure and studies among children are need...
Article
The present study examined the psychometric properties of a brief parent-report daily checklist of toddler behavior (Parent Daily Report—Toddler Version; PDR-T). Data were collected from three groups of 18–36 month-olds who were followed longitudinally for approximately one year: (a) internationally adopted children (N = 156); (b) children placed i...
Article
Full-text available
Major life stress often produces a flat diurnal cortisol slope, an indicator of potential long-term health problems. Exposure to stress early in childhood or the accumulation of stress across the life span may be responsible for this pattern. However, the relative impact of life stress at different life stages on diurnal cortisol is unknown. Using...
Article
The developing immune system is an adaptive system, primed by antigens, responsive to infectious pathogens, and can be affected by other aspects of the early rearing environment, including deviations from the normal provision of parental care. We investigated whether early rearing in an institutional setting, even when followed by years living in s...
Article
In the current study, we compared emotion regulation abilities between post‐institutionalized (PI; N = 124) and never‐institutionalized non‐adopted (NA; N = 172) children and adolescents (7–15 years). We assessed cortisol reactivity and coded emotion regulation during the speech portion of Trier Social Stress Test (TSST‐M). Parents reported on thei...
Article
Early rearing conditions can exert a strong influence on the immune system, affecting regulation and the capacity to respond effectively to pathogens. Most PNI research focuses on inflammatory processes, but the absence of typical parenting can also result in a polarization of T cells. An optimized multicolor immunophenotyping panel was used to enu...
Article
Full-text available
Although many children adopted internationally show remarkable recovery once placed in families, as a group they continue to exhibit persisting developmental deficits and delays in self-regulation. The current study uses a stratified, randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the effects of mindfulness-based and executive function trainings (EFTs) o...
Article
The current study compared behavioral and adrenocortical functioning of maltreated (N = 91) and comparably aged (1.5–3 years) institutionally-reared children soon after (1.5–2.5 months) placement in foster care or adoptive homes, respectively. Foster and adoptive parents reported on the children’s socioemotional competence and behavior problems, ex...
Chapter
Adverse experiences during childhood can have long-lasting impacts on physical and mental health. At the heart of most theories of how these effects are transduced into health impacts is the activity of stress-mediating systems, most notably the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis. Here we review the anatomy and physiology of the axis,...
Article
Background Children adopted from orphanages or other such institutions tend to display blunted reactivity to stressors – even years after arriving in their generally supportive and highly resourced postadoption homes. Puberty, a proposed sensitive period for environmental influences on stress‐mediating systems, may provide an opportunity for postin...
Article
Given the long‐lasting detrimental effects of internalizing symptoms, there is great need for detecting early risk markers. One promising marker is freezing behavior. Whereas initial freezing reactions are essential for coping with threat, prolonged freezing has been associated with internalizing psychopathology. However, it remains unknown whether...
Article
This review examines the current state of knowledge regarding children's biological stress response during the transition from preschool to compulsory formal schooling, focusing on longitudinal studies that include repeated measures of cortisol concentrations in saliva or scalp hair. In all, eight independent studies (ten publications) were found a...
Article
Full-text available
Objective: To evaluate cardiovascular and metabolic function in youths adopted internationally from orphanages/institutions (postinstitutionalized) who were height-stunted at adoption. Study design: A total of 30 postinstitutionalized youths (age, 9-18 years; body mass index [BMI] percentile, 7.2-90.4) who were height-stunted at adoption were co...
Article
This study examined the association between early life adversity, in the form of early rearing in an institution (orphanage), and the slope of cortisol in the first thirty minutes after waking in 277 children, aged 7 through 15 years old, who had either been adopted between 6 and 60 months of age into well-resourced homes in the United States or bo...
Article
The JCPP works at the cutting edge of clinical science to publish ground‐breaking research across the full range of topics in the field of child psychology and psychiatry. As JCPP editors, who are also active researcher's in our own right, we are conscious of the threat posed to our field by what has come to be known as the reproducibility crisis ‐...
Article
Poverty is associated with poor physical and emotional development. Activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis is argued to be one of the pathways through which poverty acts on these outcomes. While studies of school-aged children have found some evidence for this, there is little evidence for this hypothesis early in develo...
Article
There is now a clear focus on incorporating, and integrating, multiple levels of analysis in developmental science. The current study adds to research in this area by including markers of the immune and neuroendocrine systems in a longitudinal study of temperament in infants. Observational and parent-reported ratings of infant temperament, serum ma...
Article
Full-text available
Seventy-eight postinstitutionalized (PI) children adopted at ages 17–36 months were assessed 2, 8, 16, and 24 months postadoption on measures of cortisol and parenting quality, and compared to same-aged children adopted from foster care (FC, n = 45) and nonadopted children (NA, n = 45). In kindergarten (Mage = 6.0 years), teachers, parents, and tra...
Article
Seminal discoveries in our field demonstrated early rearing conditions play an important role in guiding the normal development of the immune system. Violation of the inherent expectation for parenting derails not only behavioral and brain development, but also immune responses. Most focus on how early adversity engenders a proinflammatory bias; fe...
Chapter
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book discusses some of what is needed to support a healthy climate for translational research in developmental science. This discussion includes what people can expect to be roadblocks in the process of enhancing a translational climate...
Article
Background: Research on early adversity, stress biology, and child development has grown exponentially in recent years. Findings: We review the current evidence for the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis as a stress-mediating mechanism between various forms of childhood adversity and psychopathology. We begin with a review of the n...
Article
In unpredictable times, it is perhaps even more important to contemplate the direction different fields of science are headed. In this article, I contemplate two directions of psychological science: the increasing integration of the study of psychology with other sciences and the concern of many sciences, including ours, with improving the reproduc...
Article
This review provides a broad overview of my research group’s work on social buffering in human development in the context of the field. Much of the focus is on social buffering of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) system, one of the two major arms of the mammalian stress system. This focus reflects the centrality of the HPA system in...
Article
Adoption marks a radical transition in caregiving for thousands of children adopted internationally from institutional care; however, very little is known about the quality of this parenting compared with other populations or the transactional effects of parent and child characteristics in postadoption families during the transition to family care....
Article
Full-text available
Background: Early life adversity that increases the risk of growth stunting is hypothesized to increase the risk of obesity and, in girls, early onset puberty. This hypothesis was tested in children adopted from orphanages. Methods: Post-institutionalized (PI) youth were compared with youth reared in comparable families (non-adopted; NA) on heig...
Article
In the published article we unintentionally missed to provide references to study #4 (see Table 1). The source data of study #4 were kindly provided by the TRAILS consortium (Rosmalen et al., 2005). Accordingly the author list has been amended by including Judith G.M. Rosmalen and Albertine J. Oldehinkel, who implemented and supervised the data col...
Article
Full-text available
The validation of laboratory paradigms that reliably induce a stress response [including hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and autonomic nervous system (ANS) activation], is critical for understanding how children’s stress-response systems support emotional and cognitive function. Early childhood research to date is markedly limited, given...
Article
This study investigated whether brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) genotype moderated inhibitory control during an emotionally valenced task in a sample of internationally adopted adolescents (N = 109, ages 12-13 years) who spent their early years in institutional care. Participants were genotyped for the Val66Met polymorphism of the BDNF gen...