The import of the cortisol rise in child care differs as a function of behavioral inhibition

Megan R. Gunnar, Erin Kryzer, Mark J. Van Ryzin, Deborah A. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Children of ages 3 to 4.5 years (N = 107; 45 boys, 62 girls) were studied twice, 6 months apart, to examine whether the cortisol rise in child care at Time 1 (T1) was associated with (a) changes in anxious, vigilant behavior from T1 to Time 2 (T2) and (b) higher internalizing symptoms at T2. Controlling for measures of home environment and child care quality at T1, as well as for cortisol activity at T2, we obtained results indicating that behavioral inhibition moderated the associations between the rise in cortisol at T1 and child outcomes at T2 (i.e., anxious, vigilant behavior and internalizing symptoms). For both outcomes, the rise in cortisol at T1 became more positively predictive at increasing levels of behavioral inhibition. Specifically, at higher levels of behavioral inhibition, children with larger T1 cortisol increases expressed more internalizing symptoms than did children at lower levels of behavioral inhibition; in contrast, for those with low cortisol activity at T1, children with higher levels of inhibition expressed fewer internalizing symptoms than did children at lower levels of inhibition. In addition, children with higher levels of behavioral inhibition and lower cortisol activity at T1 exhibited reductions in anxious, vigilant behavior from T1 to T2, whereas at lower levels of behavioral inhibition, variations in the T1 cortisol rise bore no relation to changes in this behavior. These results suggest that the rise in cortisol at child care may have differential predictive value as a function of behaviorally inhibited temperament.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-803
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume47
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2011

Keywords

  • Behavioral inhibition
  • Child care
  • Cortisol
  • Internalizing symptoms

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