Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Dr. Elizabeth Hayden


Hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) are receiving increased attention as a novel biomarker of psychophysiological responses to chronic stress. I examined the validity of HCC as a marker of psychosocial stress in mother-daughter dyads characterized by high (n = 30) or low (n = 30) maternal chronic stress. Additionally, I examined whether early care and daughters’ symptoms moderated similarity of HCC levels within dyads. Finally, I examined chronic stress and early caregiving as potential mediators of children’s cortisol stability. High-stress mothers had significantly lower HCC compared to low-stress mothers. Further, HCC in daughters were significantly associated with previously assessed salivary cortisol reactivity. Mother-daughter HCC associations were significantly moderated by negative parenting styles and children’s internalizing symptoms. Results did not support the mediating roles of either chronic stress or caregiving in the stability of children’s cortisol. Findings overall indicate that HCC may be a useful marker of cortisol responses to chronic stress.