Prospectively assessed early life experiences in relation to cortisol reactivity in adolescents at risk for asthma



Altered cortisol reactivity in individuals with asthma likely increases the risk of inflammation in the face of stress. Understanding antecedents of cortisol reactivity enhances knowledge of factors affecting asthma. Forty-eight subjects genetically predisposed for asthma, recruited from a study that assessed them from birth, completed a laboratory stress procedure and self-report measures at ages 17–19 years. Observation and parent reports from age 0 to 2 years were used to create a parent child relationship risk variable and to define criteria for a cumulative risk variable. In repeated measures analysis of 46 adolescents, those who had experienced early parent child relationship problems, specifically insecure attachment, had an attenuated cortisol stress response, even after controlling for concurrent psychological function and recent stressors (F = 4.6, p < .005). Cortisol stress response was not related to asthma status. This study supports a relationship between the parent child relationship during the first 2 years of life and later cortisol response to stress in youth at genetic risk for asthma. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 55: 133–144, 2013