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The symphonic structure of childhood stress reactivity: Patterns of sympathetic, parasympathetic, and adrenocortical responses to psychological challenge

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2014

Jodi A. Quas
Affiliation:
University of California–Irvine
Ilona S. Yim
Affiliation:
University of California–Irvine
Tim F. Oberlander
Affiliation:
University of British Columbia
David Nordstokke
Affiliation:
University of British Columbia
Marilyn J. Essex
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Jeffrey M. Armstrong
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Nicole Bush
Affiliation:
University of California–San Francisco
Jelena Obradović
Affiliation:
Stanford University
W. Thomas Boyce
Affiliation:
University of California–San Francisco
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Despite widespread recognition that the physiological systems underlying stress reactivity are well coordinated at a neurobiological level, surprisingly little empirical attention has been given to delineating precisely how the systems actually interact with one another when confronted with stress. We examined cross-system response proclivities in anticipation of and following standardized laboratory challenges in 664 4- to 14-year-olds from four independent studies. In each study, measures of stress reactivity within both the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system (i.e., the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system) and the corticotrophin releasing hormone system (i.e., the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis) were collected. Latent profile analyses revealed six distinctive patterns that recurred across the samples: moderate reactivity (average cross-system activation; 52%–80% of children across samples), parasympathetic-specific reactivity (2%–36%), anticipatory arousal (4%–9%), multisystem reactivity (7%–14%), hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis specific reactivity (6%–7%), and underarousal (0%–2%). Groups meaningfully differed in socioeconomic status, family adversity, and age. Results highlight the sample-level reliability of children's neuroendocrine responses to stress and suggest important cross-system regularities that are linked to development and prior experiences and may have implications for subsequent physical and mental morbidity.

Type
Regular Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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