Emotion regulation and cortisol reactivity during a social evaluative stressor: A study of post-institutionalized youth

Nicole B. Perry, Bonny Donzella, Anna M. Parenteau, Christopher Desjardins, Megan R. Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In the current study, we compared emotion regulation abilities between post-institutionalized (PI; N = 124) and never-institutionalized non-adopted (NA; N = 172) children and adolescents (7–15 years). We assessed cortisol reactivity and coded emotion regulation during the speech portion of Trier Social Stress Test (TSST-M). Parents reported on their children's social, academic, and behavioral adjustment. Results suggest that emotion regulation abilities increased with age, but this increase was greater for NA than PI youth. With regard to cortisol, piecewise growth modeling revealed that at higher levels of emotion regulation PI youth had greater baseline values (after a period of time allowing for acclimation to the laboratory) and had steeper recovery slopes than NA youth. There was also a main effect of emotion regulation on the reactivity slope suggesting that for both groups, as emotion regulation increased, the cortisol reactivity slope decreased. Finally, greater emotion regulation predicted fewer internalizing behavior problems for PI youth but not for NA youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-572
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the parents and children without whom this study would not have been possible. The authors also thank Shreya Lakhan‐Pal for her early work on the coding scheme, as well as Heather Taylor and the undergraduates for their data coding work. This work was supported by grants R01 HD075349 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded to Megan Gunnar. The support was provided to Nicole Perry by a National Institute of Mental Health training grant (T32 MH015755) during the preparation of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • adjustment
  • childhood
  • cortisol
  • emotion regulation
  • post-institutionalized


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