Social deprivation and the HPA axis in early development

Kalsea J. Koss, Camelia E. Hostinar, Bonny Donzella, Megan R. Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations

Abstract

Growing evidence suggests that early social deprivation impacts the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. Early adverse care in the form of institutional or orphanage care provides a human model for early social deprivation. The present study examined changes in diurnal cortisol during the transition to family care in the first 2 years post-adoption. Children adopted between 15 and 36 months from institutional care were examined four times during their first 2 years post-adoption (N=. 58). Comparison groups included same-aged peers reared in their birth families (N=. 50) and children adopted during their first year from overseas foster care (N=. 47). Children provided daily cortisol samples at roughly 2, 9, 17, and 25 months post-adoption. Post-institutionalized and post-foster care children exhibited less steep diurnal cortisol compared to non-adopted same-aged peers; these differences did not diminish across the 2 year period. For post-institutionalized children, lower social care quality in institutions was associated with less steep cortisol slopes. Lastly, shallower diurnal cortisol was a mediator between adoption status and increased behavioral problems 2 years post-adoption. Consistent with the non-human primate literature, early social deprivation may contribute to early programming of the HPA axis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume50
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Keywords

  • Cortisol
  • Early adversity
  • Early childhood
  • International adoption
  • Problem behavior
  • Social deprivation

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