Cumulative Risk, Maternal Responsiveness, and Allostatic Load Among Young Adolescents.

Cumulative Risk, Maternal Responsiveness, and Allostatic Load Among Young Adolescents.

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Cumulative Risk, Maternal Responsiveness, and Allostatic Load Among Young Adolescents Gary W. Evans, Pilyoung Kim, Albert H. Ting, Harris B. Tesher, and Dana Shannis Cornell University The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of cumulative risk exposure in concert with maternal responsiveness on physiological indicators of chronic stress in children and youth. Middle-school children exposed to greater accumulated psychosocial (e.g., family turmoil, poverty) and physical (e.g., crowding, substandard housing) risk factors manifested higher levels of allostatic load, a physiological marker of cumulative wear and tear on the body caused by the mobilization of multiple, physiological response systems. This effect was longitudinal, residualizing allostatic load 3–4 years earlier when the youth were in elementary school. This effect, however, occurred only among adolescents with mothers low in responsiveness. Cumulative risk was also associated with dynamic cardiovascular processes in response to an acute stressor (mental arithmetic). Higher risk was associated with muted reactivity and slower, less efficient recovery in blood pressure. These dynamic cardiovascular effects occurred irre- spective of maternal responsiveness. Keywords: cumulative risk, stress, maternal responsiveness, allostatic load Elementary-school children exposed to accumulated psychoso- cial (e.g., family turmoil, violence) and physical (e.g., noise, substandard housing) risk factors manifest higher allostatic load relative to children with lower levels of cumulative risk (Evans, 2003). Allostatic load is a physiological marker of cumulative wear and tear on the body caused by the mobilization of multiple physiological systems in response to environmental demands (McEwen, 2002; McEwen & Seeman, 1999; McEwen & Stellar, 1993; Sterling & Eyer, 1988). This study extends developmental research on cumulative risk in several respects. We incorporate a longitudinal design examining risk and allostatic load among a young adolescent sample. Most cumulative risk research has ex- amined preadolescent children, and only Evans (2003) examined physiological sequelae of cumulative risk exposure. We also in- corporate a protective factor—maternal responsiveness—that po- tentially could buffer the adverse effects of cumulative risk on allostatic load. There is very little work on protective factors and cumulative risk exposure in adolescents and no work on protective factors and allostatic load among people of any age. We also investigate dynamic cardiovascular functioning (i.e., blood pres- sure reactivity and recovery to an acute stressor) in relation to cumulative risk exposure. This is the first study to examine this topic and only the second study of cardiovascular recovery among a sample of children or youth. All prior studies of recovery except one used adult samples.
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This note was uploaded on 11/29/2010 for the course DEA 4010 at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Cumulative Risk, Maternal Responsiveness, and Allostatic Load Among Young Adolescents.

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