Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Hayden, Elizabeth P.


Females’ reactivity to stress appears to be closely tied to internalizing symptoms, while males who are under-reactive may be at risk for externalizing problems. Little is known about when such differences emerge, despite possible implications for early prevention. Cortisol reactivity to a laboratory stressor was assessed in 409 three-year-old children along with children’s parent-reported internalizing and externalizing symptoms, which were re-collected at child ages 5 and 8. Multilevel modelling was used to investigate whether the relationship between cortisol reactivity and symptoms differed between boys and girls longitudinally. Over time, girls with lower cortisol reactivity showed a decrease in depressive symptoms while girls with higher reactivity showed relatively elevated symptoms. Boys with higher cortisol reactivity showed a decrease in externalizing problems; boys with lower reactivity remained relatively stable in such symptoms. Findings suggest sex differences in children’s stress reactivity, with implications for the later manifestation of symptoms across childhood.

Available for download on Thursday, October 31, 2019