Sex-specific effects of mindfulness on romantic partners' cortisol responses to conflict and relations with psychological adjustment

Heidemarie Laurent, Sean Laurent, Robin Hertz, Dorianne Egan-Wright, Douglas A. Granger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Mindfulness is known to improve individuals' and couples' subjective stress regulation, but little is known about how it impacts hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis responses to acute psychosocial stress. The current study tested effects of dispositional mindfulness facets on young adult couples' cortisol responses to a conflict discussion stressor, as well as associations with psychological adjustment. One hundred heterosexual couples completed the five facet mindfulness questionnaire one week before engaging in a conflict discussion task. Each partner provided five saliva samples from pre- to post-conflict, which were assayed for cortisol. Measures of adjustment - depression and anxiety symptoms and global well-being - were also completed at this session. Hierarchical linear modeling of cortisol trajectories revealed sex-specific effects; whereas women's mindfulness (nonreactivity facet) predicted higher conflict stress cortisol levels, men's mindfulness (describing facet) predicted less pronounced cortisol reactivity/recovery curves. These patterns were related to better adjustment-lower depression symptoms for women and greater well-being for men. Implications for sex differences in mindfulness benefits are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2905-2913
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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