Cortisol function among early school-aged homeless children

J. J. Cutuli, Kristen L. Wiik, Janette E. Herbers, Megan R. Gunnar, Ann S. Masten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Homelessness represents a context of extreme poverty and risk for child development. This study compared the relative influence of two classes of risk in the context of homelessness. Levels of socioeconomic resource-related risk and negative lifetime events were examined with respect to morning cortisol levels and cortisol response to a set of cognitive tasks. Participants were 66 children between the ages of 4 and 7 years staying in an emergency shelter for families. Adversities largely reflecting family level negative life events predicted higher levels of morning cortisol and differences in initial level and change over the course of the session of cognitive tasks. In contrast, a socioeconomic cumulative risk score was not associated with morning or session-related differences in cortisol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)833-845
Number of pages13
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by predoctoral fellowships awarded to J.J. Cutuli from the Center for Neurobehavioral Development (CNBD) at the University of Minnesota and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), grants to Ann S. Masten from the National Science Foundation (NSF No. 0745643) and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota, and support to Megan R. Gunnar from the Experienced-Based Brain Development program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIAR) which provided funds for the cortisol assays. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CNBD, NIMH, NSF, CURA, or CIAR. These agencies had no further role in study design, in the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, in the writing of the report, and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.


  • Adversity
  • Cortisol
  • Early childhood
  • Family
  • Homelessness
  • Risk
  • Stress


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