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Additive and bidirectional effects of executive control and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis regulation on children's adjustment were examined, along with the effects of low income and cumulative risk on executive control and the HPA axis. The study utilized longitudinal data from a community sample of preschool age children (N = 306, 36–39 months at Time 1) whose families were recruited to overrepresent low-income contexts. We tested the effects of low income and cumulative risk on levels and growth of executive control and HPA axis regulation (diurnal cortisol level), the bidirectional effects of executive control and the HPA axis on each other, and their additive effects on children's adjustment problems, social competence and academic readiness. Low income predicted lower Time 4 executive control, and cumulative risk predicted lower Time 4 diurnal cortisol level. There was little evidence of bidirectional effects of executive control and diurnal cortisol. However, both executive control and diurnal cortisol predicted Time 4 adjustment, suggesting additive effects. There were indirect effects of income on all three adjustment outcomes through executive control, and of cumulative risk on adjustment problems and social competence through diurnal cortisol. The results provide evidence that executive control and diurnal cortisol additively predict children's adjustment and partially account for the effects of income and cumulative risk on adjustment.
This study aimed to specify the neural mechanisms underlying the link between low household income and diminished executive control in the preschool period. Specifically, we examined whether individual differences in the neural processes associated with executive attention and inhibitory control accounted for income differences observed in performance on a neuropsychological battery of executive control tasks. The study utilized a sample of preschool-aged children (N = 118) whose families represented the full range of income, with 32% of families at/near poverty, 32% lower income, and 36% middle to upper income. Children completed a neuropsychological battery of executive control tasks and then completed two computerized executive control tasks while EEG data were collected. We predicted that differences in the event-related potential (ERP) correlates of executive attention and inhibitory control would account for income differences observed on the executive control battery. Income and ERP measures were related to performance on the executive control battery. However, income was unrelated to ERP measures. The findings suggest that income differences observed in executive control during the preschool period might relate to processes other than executive attention and inhibitory control.
Environmental risk predicts disrupted basal cortisol levels in preschool children. However, little is known about the stability or variability of diurnal cortisol morning levels or slope patterns over time in young children. This study used latent profile analysis to identify patterns of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis activity during the preschool period. Using a community sample (N = 306), this study measured income, cumulative risk, and children's diurnal cortisol (morning level and slope) four times across 2.5 years, starting when children were 36 months old. Latent profile analysis profiles indicated that there were predominantly stable patterns of diurnal cortisol level and slope over time and that these patterns were predicted by income and cumulative risk. In addition, there were curvilinear relations of income and cumulative risk to profiles of low morning cortisol level and flattened diurnal slope across time, suggesting that both lower and higher levels of income and cumulative risk were associated with a stress-sensitive physiological system. Overall, this study provides initial evidence for the role of environmental risk in predicting lower, flattened basal cortisol patterns that remain stable over time.
Developmental–ecological models are useful for integrating risk factors across multiple contexts and conceptualizing mediational pathways for adolescent alcohol use, yet these comprehensive models are rarely tested. This study used a developmental–ecological framework to investigate the influence of neighborhood, family, and peer contexts on alcohol use in early adolescence (N = 387). Results from a multi-informant longitudinal cross-lagged mediation path model suggested that high levels of neighborhood disadvantage were associated with high levels of alcohol use 2 years later via an indirect pathway that included exposure to delinquent peers and adolescent delinquency. Results also indicated that adolescent involvement with delinquent peers and alcohol use led to decrements in parenting, rather than being consequences of poor parenting. Overall, the study supported hypothesized relationships among key microsystems thought to influence adolescent alcohol use, and thus findings underscore the utility of developmental–ecological models of alcohol use.
Effortful control was examined as a moderator of the relations of three domains of contextual risk factors to growth in internalizing and externalizing problems in a community sample (N = 189) of children (8–12 years at Time 1). Socioeconomic, maternal, and environmental risk factors were examined as predictors of initial levels and growth in children's adjustment problems across 3 years. The effects of the risk factors depended on children's level of effortful control. For children lower in effortful control, socioeconomic risk was related to significantly higher initial levels of internalizing and externalizing problems and decreases over time. However, children lower in effortful control had higher levels of problems at all three time points than children higher in effortful control. Maternal risk was associated with increases in internalizing for children lower in effortful control, and environmental risk was related to increases in internalizing and externalizing problems for children lower in effortful control, but not those higher in effortful control. Children who were lower in effortful control appeared to experience more adverse effects of contextual risk than those higher in effortful control, suggesting that interventions aimed at improving children's effortful control might serve to protect children from increased risk of adjustment problems associated with contextual risk factors.
A model of the effects of
children's temperament (negative and positive emotionality, impulsivity and attention
focusing) on post-divorce threat appraisals, coping (active and avoidant), and psychological
symptoms (depression and conduct problems) was investigated. The study utilized a sample of
223 mothers and children (ages 9 to 12 years) who had experienced divorce within the last two
years. Evidence was found of direct effects of child-report negative emotionality on
children's threat perceptions and of child-report positive emotionality and impulsivity on
children's coping. Indirect effects of negative emotionality on active and avoidant coping
through threat appraisal were found. Direct effects of the temperament variables on symptoms
were also found. Cross group analyses indicated that the models were robust to age differences,
but gender differences were found in the relation between negative emotionality and depression.
The results of this study indicate that temperament and threat appraisals are important predictors
of children's post-divorce symptoms, and that temperament is a predictor of
children's appraisal and coping process.
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