The transition to adolescence is a key period in the reshaping of systems central to emotion and stress, including maturation of neural networks involved in cognitive-affective regulation and neuroendocrine changes driven by pubertal hormones. Adolescents experience an increased prevalence of everyday stressful events and seem to exhibit increased biological stress reactivity in response to psychosocial stressors. However, there is limited developmental evidence regarding what strategies adolescents use to regulate responses to stressors and even less evidence regarding how these regulatory strategies impact physiological stress reactivity. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore cognitive-affective strategies and early life experiences as predictors of physiological reactivity to a social stressor before and after the pubertal transition. The first study examined associations between cognitive-affective strategies and cortisol reactivity to the Trier Social Stress Test for Children in typically developing children and adolescents. Across age and gender, higher trait levels of cognitive reappraisal of emotion predicted higher cortisol reactivity. The second study extended these findings by testing the impact of early life stress on the development of cognitive-affective and stress regulatory systems before and after the pubertal transition. In contrast to findings within the typically developing youth, cognitive-affective strategies did not predict cortisol reactivity in post-institutionalized internationally adopted youth. Findings are discussed in terms of future research directions and implications for the development of intervention efforts to promote self-regulation during the transition to adolescence.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2013. Major: Child Psychology. Advisor: Megan Gunnar. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 127 pages.
Cognitive-Affective Strategies and Early Adversity as Modulators of Psychosocial Stress Reactivity in Children and Adolescents.
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