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Parental depression and child cognitive vulnerability predict children's cortisol reactivity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2014

Elizabeth P. Hayden
Western University
Benjamin L. Hankin
University of Denver
Sarah V. M. Mackrell
Western University
Haroon I. Sheikh
Western University
Patricia L. Jordan
Western University
David J. A. Dozois
Western University
Shiva M. Singh
Western University
Thomas M. Olino
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Lisa S. Badanes
Metropolitan State University of Denver


Risk for depression is expressed across multiple levels of analysis. For example, parental depression and cognitive vulnerability are known markers of depression risk, but no study has examined their interactive effects on children's cortisol reactivity, a likely mediator of early depression risk. We examined relations across these different levels of vulnerability using cross-sectional and longitudinal methods in two community samples of children. Children were assessed for cognitive vulnerability using self-reports (Study 1; n = 244) and tasks tapping memory and attentional bias (Study 2; n = 205), and their parents were assessed for depression history using structured clinical interviews. In both samples, children participated in standardized stress tasks and cortisol reactivity was assessed. Cross-sectionally and longitudinally, parental depression history and child cognitive vulnerability interacted to predict children's cortisol reactivity; associations between parent depression and elevated child cortisol activity were found when children also showed elevated depressotypic attributions as well as attentional and memory biases. Findings indicate that models of children's emerging depression risk may benefit from the examination of the interactive effects of multiple sources of vulnerability across levels of analysis.

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Parental depression and child cognitive vulnerability predict children's cortisol reactivity
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