Recent research supports the promise of examining interactive models of physiological processes on children's adjustment. The present study investigates interactions between children's autonomic nervous system activity and adrenocortical functioning in the context of marital discord; specifically, testing models of concurrent responses proposed by Bauer et al. ( Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 23:102-113) in the prediction of children's behavioral responses to conflict and adjustment. Asymmetry and symmetry in children's salivary alpha-amylase and cortisol were examined in 195 children (M age = 8 years) in response to viewing conflict vignettes. Results were partially consistent with an interactive model in the context of high marital discord; asymmetry among higher alpha-amylase and lower cortisol related to higher emotional insecurity and concurrent and subsequent maladjustment. In contrast, patterns of symmetrical responses were related to greater maladjustment for children exposed to lower levels of marital discord, supporting an additive model. Findings support the importance of a multisystem approach to investigating the adaptiveness of children's physiological stress responses, while also highlighting the value of considering physiological responses in the context of family risk.
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© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
- emotional security
- internalizing and externalizing problems
- marital conflict
- salivary alpha-amylase