Early pubertal maturation and internalizing problems in adolescence: Sex differences in the role of cortisol reactivity to interpersonal stress

Misaki N. Natsuaki, Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, Xiaojia Ge, Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, Paul D. Hastings, Carolyn Zahn-Waxler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations

Abstract

An accumulating body of literature has shown a link between early pubertal maturation and internalizing problems, particularly among girls. Our knowledge is, however, limited with regard to what accounts for this association. Based on a hypothesis that early maturing girls have heightened stress sensitivity that increases the risk of internalizing problems, the present investigation examined the roles of pubertal timing and salivary cortisol reactivity to interpersonal stressors in adolescents' internalizing problems. Results from 110 boys and 106 girls (ages 11-16) indicated that early maturing adolescents had increased internalizing symptoms. Early maturing girls' higher levels of internalizing problems were at least partially attributed to their heightened sensitivity to interpersonal stress. Finally, girls' cortisol reactivity to interpersonal challenge was more strongly associated with internalizing problems than boys' reactivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-524
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Volume38
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is part of a larger study, titled the Role of Emotion in the Development of Psychopathology (97-M-0116) and was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Mental Health. We acknowledge the effort of many who contributed significantly to this project, including Francesca Belouad, Ann Brand, Sunita Duggal, Clinton Finch, Kimberly Kendziora, Judith Mulvihill, Barbara Usher, and Jean Welsh. We thank all the adolescents and their parents who participated to this study.

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