Category: Child / Adolescent - Depression

Symposium

Childhood Adversity Moderates the Effects of Independent Episodic Stressors on Cortisol Awakening Response and Depressive Symptoms Among Adolescents

Sunday, November 19
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Sapphire 410, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Psychophysiology | Stress | Depression
Presentation Type: Symposium

Exposure to childhood adversity (CA) appears to heighten depressive reactivity to proximal stressors. CA may disrupt development of the HPA axis, and is linked to markers of HPA axis dysregulation, including cortisol awakening response (CAR) abnormalities. Evidence suggests that the CAR is influenced by recent stressors. However, it is unclear whether CA modifies the relationship between proximal episodic stressors and CAR. Further, researchers have argued that the qualitative nature of stress, including perceived controllability, may influence its impact on cortisol regulation. As such, CA may differentially impact effects of recent dependent (controllable, self-generated) versus independent (fateful, uncontrollable) stressors. Hypotheses were tested in an adolescent sample: a) CA will moderate effects of recent episodic stress on CAR; b) moderation will be specific to independent events; c) CA will also intensify effects of recent stress on depressive symptoms, and again this effect will be specific to independent events.


Adolescents (N=241, ages 14-17) were recruited from the community. Episodic stress was assessed using the UCLA Life Stress Interview, adolescent version (Hammen & Brennnan, 2001). CA was assessed using the lifetime adversity section of the Youth Life Stress Interview (Rudolph & Flynn, 2007), administered to parents. Both were team-coded using contextual threat methods. To assess CAR, adolescents provided saliva samples at awakening and 30 and 60 minutes post-awakening for two days. Controlling for key biobehavioral covariates, the CA x episodic stress interaction was significant (p= .030), with proximal stress predicting decreased CAR at high but not low levels of CA. Examining dependent and independent stressors separately, the interaction was only significant for independent stressors. Likewise, when examining depressive symptoms as an outcome, CA predicted increased reactivity to independent but not dependent stressors. Collectively, results suggest that CA sensitizes youth to uncontrollable but not controllable episodic stressors, and are consistent with the idea that stress sensitization occurs via disruption of the HPA axis.

Lisa R. Starr

Assistant Professor
University of Rochester

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Childhood Adversity Moderates the Effects of Independent Episodic Stressors on Cortisol Awakening Response and Depressive Symptoms Among Adolescents



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