Selective impact of early parental responsivity on adolescent stress reactivity.

PloS one

PubMedID: 23555573

Hackman DA, Betancourt LM, Brodsky NL, Kobrin L, Hurt H, Farah MJ. Selective impact of early parental responsivity on adolescent stress reactivity. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(3):e58250.
Research in animals has shown that early life experience, particularly parenting behaviors, influences later-life stress reactivity. Despite the tremendous relevance of this finding to human development and brain function, it has not been tested prospectively in humans. In this study two aspects of parenting were measured at age 4 in a sample of healthy, low socioeconomic status, African American children, and stress reactivity was measured in the same children 11-14 years later using a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test (n = 55). Salivary cortisol was measured before, during and after the stressor and data were analyzed using piecewise hierarchical linear modeling. Parental responsivity, independent of the use of physical discipline, was positively related to cortisol reactivity. Effects were independent of subjective appraisals of the stressor and were also independent of other environmental risk factors and current psychosocial functioning. Therefore this study demonstrates in a novel and precise fashion that early childhood parental responsivity prospectively and independently predicts stress reactivity in adolescence.