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Allostasis and the development of internalizing and externalizing problems: Changing relations with physiological systems across adolescence

  • Paul D. Hastings (a1), Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff (a2), Bonnie Klimes-Dougan (a3), Amber L. Allison (a2), Laura Derose (a4), Kimberley T. Kendziora (a5), Barbara A. Usher (a6) and Carolyn Zahn-Waxler (a7)...


Allostasis, or the maintenance of stability through physiological change, refers to the process by which individuals adjust to the continually changing demands that are put upon somatic activity by salient events. Bauer and colleagues proposed that allostasis could be detected through patterns of the joint reactivity of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis system under stressful conditions. We examined the associations between ANS and HPA reactivity and the development of externalizing and internalizing problems over 2 years in a sample of 215 adolescents. The interactions of ANS and HPA reactivity were contemporaneously associated with, and longitudinally predictive of, adolescents' emotional and behavioral problems. Adolescents with symmetrical high reactivity across systems had more internalizing and fewer externalizing problems initially. Over time, both symmetrical and asymmetrical reactivity predicted increasing internalizing problems in girls, depending on the measure of ANS activity that was examined, heart rate, or blood pressure reactivity. Implications for the understanding of allostasis and the dynamic nature of the relations between multiple physiological regulatory systems and adolescents' developing psychopathology are discussed.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Paul D. Hastings, University of California Davis, Center for Mind & Brain, 267 Cousteau Place, Davis, CA 95618; E-mail:


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Allostasis and the development of internalizing and externalizing problems: Changing relations with physiological systems across adolescence

  • Paul D. Hastings (a1), Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff (a2), Bonnie Klimes-Dougan (a3), Amber L. Allison (a2), Laura Derose (a4), Kimberley T. Kendziora (a5), Barbara A. Usher (a6) and Carolyn Zahn-Waxler (a7)...


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