Reactivity to Stress: When Does a History of Medical Adversity Foster Resilience Versus Vulnerability?


  • Daphne B. Bugental,

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
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      This research was supported by awards from NIMH (RO1 MH 051773) and the National Science Foundation (BNS 9021221) to the first author, and the Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Fellowship to the second author. The authors thank Shanta Kokotay, who assisted as experimenter.

  • David Beaulieu,

  • Erin Fowler,

  • Eileen O'Brien,

  • Laura Cayan


This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Corrigendum Volume 41, Issue 9, 2325, Article first published online: 20 September 2011

Daphne Bugental, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106. E-mail:


Young adults with (or without) a history of medical or physical disorders (MPDs) were exposed to repeated laboratory stress. The effects of MPD status on habituation (as measured by changing levels of cortisol) were found to be moderated by the extent to which respondents reported “attachment feelings” in their relationships (as measured by the Social Provisions Scale). Students in the MPD group who reported attachment feelings showed (a) cortisol increases during their first exposure to a laboratory stressor; and (b) cortisol decreases during a second exposure to the same stressor 1 week later. No equivalent benefit was found for students who lacked this medical history. Findings suggest the extent to which medical adversity—under the right interpersonal circumstances—promotes resilience.