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Endocrinological and subjective stress responses in children with depressive, anxiety, or externalizing disorders

  • Stephanie Stadelmann (a1), Sonia Jaeger (a1), Tina Matuschek (a1), Yoon Ju Bae (a1), Kai von Klitzing (a1), Annette Maria Klein (a1) and Mirko Döhnert (a1)...


In this study, we used a stress test to investigate endocrinological and subjective stress responses of 8- to 14-year-old children with internalizing or externalizing disorders and healthy controls. The sample (N = 170) consisted of clinical and community children. Parents were given a diagnostic interview to diagnose their children's psychiatric condition. We measured saliva cortisol and subjectively experienced arousal in children before and after the Trier Social Stress Test for Children. Children also rated their performance immediately after the stress test, and 1 hr later they rated their positive and negative thoughts about this stressful event. Children with internalizing or externalizing disorders exhibited a blunted cortisol response compared to healthy controls. Depressed children rated their test performance lower and reported more negative thoughts after the test in comparison to healthy controls, anxious children reported more arousal before and after the task, and children with externalizing disorders reported more positive thoughts. In regression analyses, cortisol and subjective stress responses were both predictive of psychiatric disorders. The study extends previous work on the relation between psychiatric disorders and children's stress responses to an experimentally induced stress task by including a broad range of psychiatric disorders and by integrating endocrinological and subjective stress responses.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Stephanie Stadelmann, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics, University of Leipzig, Liebigstraße 20a, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany; E-mail:


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This publication was supported by the Leipzig Research Center for Civilization Diseases, University of Leipzig, which is funded by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund, and the Free State of Saxony within the framework of the Excellence Initiative. The last two authors have a combined last authorship.



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Endocrinological and subjective stress responses in children with depressive, anxiety, or externalizing disorders

  • Stephanie Stadelmann (a1), Sonia Jaeger (a1), Tina Matuschek (a1), Yoon Ju Bae (a1), Kai von Klitzing (a1), Annette Maria Klein (a1) and Mirko Döhnert (a1)...


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