The Interactive Effects of Stressful Family Life Events and Cortisol Reactivity on Adolescent Externalizing and Internalizing Behaviors

Christine M. Steeger, Emily C. Cook, Christian M. Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study investigated the associations between stressful family life events and adolescent externalizing and internalizing behaviors, and the interactive effects of family life events and cortisol reactivity on problem behaviors. In a sample of 100 mothers and their adolescents (M age = 15.09; SD age = .98; 68 % girls), adolescent cortisol reactivity was measured in response to a mother–adolescent conflict interaction task designed to elicit a stress response. Mothers reported on measures of family life events and adolescent problem behaviors. Results indicated that a heightened adolescent cortisol response moderated the relations between stressful family life events and both externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Results support context-dependent theoretical models, suggesting that for adolescents with higher cortisol reactivity (compared to those with lower cortisol reactivity), higher levels of stressful family life events were associated with greater problem behaviors, whereas lower levels of stressful family life events were related to fewer problem behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-234
Number of pages10
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Volume48
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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