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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health