Social Buffering of Stress in Development: A Career Perspective

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Abstract

This review provides a broad overview of my research group’s work on social buffering in human development in the context of the field. Much of the focus is on social buffering of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) system, one of the two major arms of the mammalian stress system. This focus reflects the centrality of the HPA system in research on social buffering in the fields of developmental psychobiology and developmental science. However, buffering of the cardiovascular and autonomic nervous system is also discussed. The central developmental question in this area derives from attachment theory, which argues that the infant’s experience of stress and arousal regulation in the context of her early attachment relationships is not an immature form of social buffering experienced in adulthood but rather the foundation out of which individual differences in the capacity to gain stress relief from social partners emerges. The emergence of social buffering in infancy, changes in social buffering throughout childhood and adolescence, the influence of early experience on later individual differences in social buffering, and critical gaps in our knowledge are described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-373
Number of pages19
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2017

Keywords

  • adolescent development
  • anxiety/stress disorders
  • child development
  • infant development
  • neuroscience methodology

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