Cortisol Reactivity and Socially Anxious Behavior in Previously Institutionalized Youth

Nicole B. Perry, Carrie E. DePasquale, Bonny Donzella, Megan R. Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study investigated the association between cortisol stress reactivity to a social stressor and observed socially anxious behaviors both concurrently and over time among previously institutionalized (PI) (N = 132; ages 7–17) youth and a comparison non-adopted (NA) sample (N = 176). Cortisol reactivity was captured during the Trier Social Stress Test for Children (TSST-C; Yim et al., 2015) and youths’ social anxiety behaviors were coded during the speech portion of the TSST-C. Autoregressive cross-lagged panel models with structured residuals showed that for PI youth, greater cortisol reactivity predicted increases in socially anxious behavior during the TSST-C across three sessions. However, greater cortisol reactivity was negatively associated with concurrent social anxiety behavior. Thus, increases in cortisol reactivity across adolescence may aid in behavioral control in social situations in the short-term but may exacerbate PI youths’ socially anxious behavior over time. No significant associations emerged for NA youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-385
Number of pages11
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Issue number3
Early online dateAug 19 2021
StatePublished - Aug 19 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development through the National Institutes of Health [5R01 HD075349] to the final author.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cortisol
  • HPA axis
  • Post-institutionalized
  • Social anxiety

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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