Psychobiological models of allostatic load have delineated the effects of multiple processes that contribute to risk for psychopathology. This approach has been fruitful, but the interactive contributions of allostatic and environmental load remain understudied in early childhood. Because this developmental period encompasses the emergence of internalizing problems and biological sensitivity to early experiences, this is an important time to examine this process. In two studies, we examined allostatic and environmental load and links to subsequent internalizing and externalizing problems. Study 1 examined relations between load indices and maladjustment, concurrently and at multiple times between age 2 and kindergarten; Study 2 added more comprehensive risk indices in a sample following a group of highly fearful toddlers from 2 to 3 years of age. Results from both studies showed that increased allostatic load related to internalizing problems as environmental risk also increased. Study 2, in addition, showed that fearfulness interacted with allostatic and environmental load indices to predict greater anxiety among the fearful children who had high levels of allostatic and environmental load. Taken together, the findings support a model of risk for internalizing characterized by the interaction of biological and environmental stressors, and demonstrate the importance of considering individual differences and environmental context in applying models of allostatic load to developmental change in early childhood.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health