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01-07-2013 | Uitgave 5/2013

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 5/2013

Gender Specific Effect of Psychological Stress and Cortisol Reactivity on Adolescent Risk Taking

Tijdschrift:
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology > Uitgave 5/2013
Auteurs:
Stacey B. Daughters, Stephanie M. Gorka, Alexis Matusiewicz, Katelyn Anderson

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to evaluate how psychological stress, gender and cortisol response to stress relate to risk behavior among 132 14–18 year old adolescents. Participants completed a laboratory based risk task prior to and immediately after a computerized psychological stress task, and salivary cortisol was collected from pre-stress to 60 min following initial stress exposure. Results indicate that adolescent boys (n = 59) and girls (n = 73) demonstrate different patterns of risk taking (RT) in response to stress, such that boys evidenced an increase in RT following stress exposure, whereas girls evidenced a decrease in RT. In addition, a gender by cortisol interaction demonstrated that for boys, both a smaller total cortisol output (AUCg) and peak cortisol response to stress (PC) was associated with greater stress-induced RT. Both cortisol measures were unrelated to stress-induced RT among girls. Taken together, data suggest that among boys, a blunted cortisol response to stress underlies an increase in risk taking in the context of psychological stress. Further research with an additional behavioral stress task is needed prior to drawing conclusions regarding the relation between female gender, cortisol response to stress, and risk taking in the context of psychological stress.

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