Stress and the Development of Self-Regulation in Context


  • This work was supported in part by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grants R03 HD39750, P01 HD39667, and R01 HD 51502.

concerning this article should be addressed to Clancy Blair, Department of Applied Psychology, New York University, 246 Greene Street, Kimball Hall, 8th floor, New York, NY 10003; e-mail:


Abstract— This article considers the effects of psychosocial stress on child development and describes mechanisms through which early stress in the context of poverty affects the functioning of neural networks that underlie executive functions and self-regulation. It examines the effects of early experience on glucocorticoid and catecholamine levels that influence neural activity in areas of the brain associated with executive functions, primarily as studied in animal models. Finally, it considers the strengths and limitations of this research, its relevance to understanding stress reactivity from the perspective of biological sensitivity to context, and the implications for the study of risk and resilience processes and early intervention to prevent developmental delays.