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Individual differences in a child’s sensitivity to stress may influence whether youth exposed to trauma develop symptoms of psychopathology. We examined the interaction between HPA-axis reactivity to an acute stressor and exposure to different types of childhood trauma as predictors of mental health symptoms in a sample of youth. Youth (n = 121, ages 9–16; 47% female) completed a standardized stress task, including 5 post-stress salivary cortisol samples. Parents also completed the Child Behavior Checklist as a measure of child internalizing and externalizing symptoms in the past month, and completed the Early Trauma Inventory (ETI) as a measure of their child’s trauma exposure. More emotional abuse and non-intentional trauma were associated with greater internalizing symptoms. Youth exposed to physical abuse who demonstrated slower HPA-axis reactivity had elevated internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Youth exposed to emotional abuse or non-intentional traumatic events who demonstrated faster HPA-axis reactivity had elevated internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Profiles of exaggerated or attenuated HPA-axis reactivity to acute stress may be risk factors for psychopathology in children facing different stressful social environments.
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- HPA-Axis Activation as a Key Moderator of Childhood Trauma Exposure and Adolescent Mental Health
Kate R. Kuhlman
Elisa G. Geiss
- Springer US