Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Dr. Elizabeth Hayden

Second Advisor

Dr. David Dozois


This study examined the validity of a novel task developed to elicit cortisol reactivity in a group of 215 preschool-aged children. Children participated in a standardized stress task during a home visit. The task was videorecorded for coding of child expressions of positive and negative emotions. Salivary cortisol samples were obtained at baseline and 10,20, 30,40, and 50 minutes post-stress. Statistically significant increases in cortisol levels from baseline were found followed by a significant decline defining a quadratic function. Children exhibited a significant increase in negative emotions and a decrease in positive emotions from baseline to the stressful portion of the task. Negative emotions expressed during the task predicted a significantly greater cortisol slope, suggesting a greater increase in cortisol when higher levels of negative emotions were exhibited. No sex differences were found on either child emotionality or on indices of cortisol reactivity to the task. Results confirm that the task successfully elicited the hypothesized cortisol response in three-year-old children.



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