This study examined the within-and between-person associations between daily negative events – peer problems, academic problems and interparental conflict – and diurnal cortisol in school-age children. Salivary cortisol levels were assessed four times per day (at wakeup, 30 min later, just before dinner and at bedtime) on eight days in 47 youths ages 8–13 years old (60% female; M age = 11.28, SD = 1.50). The relative contributions of within- and between-person variances in each stressor were estimated in models predicting same-day diurnal cortisol slope, same-day bedtime cortisol, and next morning wakeup cortisol. Children who reported more peer problems on average showed flatter slopes of cortisol decline from wakeup to bedtime. However, children secreted more cortisol at wakeup following days when they had reported more peer or academic problems than usual. Interparental conflict was not significantly associated with diurnal cortisol. Findings from this study extend our understanding of short-term cortisol responses to naturally occurring problems in daily life, and help to differentiate these daily processes from the cumulative effects of chronic stress.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry