Publications by authors named "Sarah Enos Watamura"

14 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Characterizing Family Contextual Factors and Relationships with Child Behavior and Sleep Across the Buffering Toxic Stress Consortium.

Prev Sci 2021 May 26. Epub 2021 May 26.

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA.

The Buffering Toxic Stress (BTS) consortium included six sites in locations that varied widely in racial/ethnic composition and population density. Each site tested a promising parent-child intervention designed to supplement Early Head Start (EHS) services and prevent "toxic stress." To better understand family risk in a large and diverse EHS sample, studies gathered extensive data on family risk exposure, including demographic risk factors (single mother, unemployed, less than high school education or its equivalent, and neighborhood safety), income-to-needs ratio, household resource constraints, perceptions of economic hardship and pressure, caregiver mental health, and caregiver-reported dysfunctional parent-child interactions. Results presented here for all six sites offer context for the more targeted studies in this special issue. Average levels of family characteristics and child behavior varied by site. We also characterized associations between family characteristics, observer-rated child temperament, and child outcomes (i.e., caregiver-reported child behavior problems and behavioral sleep quality), controlling for child age; these relationships were similar across sites. Demographic risk and caregiver mental health problems were positively associated with child behavior problems, with low income-to-needs ratio and increased financial strain relating to behavioral problems in infancy and toddlerhood. Caregiver mental health problems, financial strain, and social and affect temperament dimensions were related to increased behavioral sleep problems. Dysfunctional parent-child interactions and household resource constraints did not demonstrate statistically significant associations. Findings suggest helpful targets to increase effectiveness of parent-child interventions in early childhood on behavior and sleep outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11121-021-01243-6DOI Listing
May 2021

Parental buffering in the context of poverty: positive parenting behaviors differentiate young children's stress reactivity profiles.

Dev Psychopathol 2020 12;32(5):1778-1787

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, CO, USA.

Experiencing poverty increases vulnerability for dysregulated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning and compromises long-term health. Positive parenting buffers children from HPA axis reactivity, yet this has primarily been documented among families not experiencing poverty. We tested the theorized power of positive parenting in 124 parent-child dyads recruited from Early Head Start (Mage = 25.21 months) by examining child cortisol trajectories using five samples collected across a standardized stress paradigm. Piecewise latent growth models revealed that positive parenting buffered children's stress responses when controlling for time of day, last stress task completed, and demographics. Positive parenting also interacted with income such that positive parenting was especially protective for cortisol reactivity in families experiencing greater poverty. Findings suggest that positive parenting behaviors are important for protecting children in families experiencing low income from heightened or prolonged physiologic stress reactivity to an acute stressor.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420001224DOI Listing
December 2020

Stress and parenting during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Child Abuse Negl 2020 12 20;110(Pt 2):104699. Epub 2020 Aug 20.

School of Social Work, Colorado State University, 1586 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO, 80523, USA. Electronic address:

Background: Stress and compromised parenting often place children at risk of abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment has generally been viewed as a highly individualistic problem by focusing on stressors and parenting behaviors that impact individual families. However, because of the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), families across the world are experiencing a new range of stressors that threaten their health, safety, and economic well-being.

Objective: This study examined the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to parental perceived stress and child abuse potential.

Participants And Setting: Participants included parents (N = 183) with a child under the age of 18 years in the western United States.

Method: Tests of group differences and hierarchical multiple regression analyses were employed to assess the relationships among demographic characteristics, COVID-19 risk factors, mental health risk factors, protective factors, parental perceived stress, and child abuse potential.

Results: Greater COVID-19 related stressors and high anxiety and depressive symptoms are associated with higher parental perceived stress. Receipt of financial assistance and high anxiety and depressive symptoms are associated with higher child abuse potential. Conversely, greater parental support and perceived control during the pandemic are associated with lower perceived stress and child abuse potential. Results also indicate racial and ethnic differences in COVID-19 related stressors, but not in mental health risk, protective factors, perceived stress, or child abuse potential.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that although families experience elevated stressors from COVID-19, providing parental support and increasing perceived control may be promising intervention targets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104699DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7440155PMC
December 2020

Looking back and moving forward: Evaluating and advancing translation from animal models to human studies of early life stress and DNA methylation.

Dev Psychobiol 2019 04 13;61(3):323-340. Epub 2018 Nov 13.

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware.

Advances in epigenetic methodologies have deepened theoretical explanations of mechanisms linking early life stress (ELS) and disease outcomes and suggest promising targets for intervention. To date, however, human studies have not capitalized on the richness of diverse animal models to derive and systematically evaluate specific and testable hypotheses. To promote cross-species dialog and scientific advance, here we provide a classification scheme to systematically evaluate the match between characteristics of human and animal studies of ELS and DNA methylation. Three preclinical models were selected that are highly cited, and that differ in the nature and severity of the ELS manipulation as well as in the affected epigenetic loci (the licking and grooming, maternal separation, and caregiver maltreatment models). We evaluated the degree to which human studies matched these preclinical models with respect to the timing of ELS and of DNA methylation assessment, as well as the type of ELS, whether sex differences were explicitly examined, the tissue sampled, and the targeted loci. Results revealed <50% match (range of 8-83%) between preclinical models and human work on these variables. Immediate and longer-term suggestions to improve translational specificity are offered, with the goal of accelerating scientific advance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21796DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6709850PMC
April 2019

The effects of economic and sociocultural stressors on the well-being of children of Latino immigrants living in poverty.

Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol 2017 01;23(1):15-26

Department of Psychology, University of Denver.

Objective: This article explored whether preschoolers' physical (body mass index [BMI] and salivary cortisol levels) and psychological (internalizing/externalizing behaviors) well-being were predicted by economic hardship, as has been previously documented, and further, whether parental immigration-related stress and/or acculturation level moderated this relationship in low-income Latino families.

Method: The sample for the current study included 71 children of Latino immigrants (M = 4.46 years, SD = .62). Parents completed questionnaires assessing immigration-related stress, acculturation level, economic hardship, and child internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Child's BMI was also calculated from height and weight. Salivary cortisol samples were collected midmorning and midafternoon at home on non-child-care days. Salivary cortisol values were averaged and log transformed.

Results: Children's salivary cortisol was predicted by an interaction between economic hardship and acculturation, with lower cortisol values except when children were protected by both lower acculturation and lower economic hardship. Both internalizing and externalizing behaviors were predicted by an interaction between economic hardship and immigration-related stress, with highest behaviors among children whose parents reported high levels of both economic hardship and immigration-related stress.

Conclusions: The effects of economic hardship on the well-being of young children of Latino immigrants may depend on concurrent experiences of sociocultural stress, with detrimental effects emerging for these outcomes only when economic hardship and sociocultural stressors are high. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000111DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5338689PMC
January 2017

Self-Regulation and Economic Stress in Children of Hispanic Immigrants and Their Peers: Better Regulation at a Cost?

Early Educ Dev 2016 15;27(7):914-931. Epub 2015 May 15.

Department of Psychology, University of Denver.

Research Findings: Although there is a well-established relationship between economic stress and children's self-regulation, few studies have examined this relationship in children of Hispanic immigrants (COHIs), a rapidly growing population. In a sample of preschool children ( = 165), we examined whether economic stress predicted teacher evaluations of children's self-regulation, whether economic stress predicted children's physiological reactivity (via cortisol levels), and whether economic stress had a similar effect on self-regulation and children's cortisol for COHI versus nonimmigrant children. Greater economic stress was associated with poorer child self-regulation and heightened physiological reactivity across a challenging classroom task for the sample as a whole. However, when we examined children by group, greater economic stress was associated with poorer teacher-reported self-regulation for nonimmigrant children only. In contrast, greater economic stress was related to greater cortisol reactivity across a challenge task for COHIs but not for nonimmigrants.

Practice Or Policy: Results demonstrate the importance of considering physiological indices of self-regulation (heightened stress physiology), in addition to traditional external indices (teacher report), when assessing self-regulation or risk more generally among preschool samples that are diverse in terms of ethnicity, economic risk, and parents' nativity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2015.1036345DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5608096PMC
May 2015

The Impact of Program Structure on Cortisol Patterning in Children Attending Out-of-Home Child Care.

Early Child Res Q 2016 1st Quarter;34:92-103

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, 2155 S. Race St, Denver, CO, 80208, USA.

Full-day center-based child care has repeatedly been associated with rising levels of cortisol, a hormone that helps the body manage challenge, across the day at child care. This article presents findings from two studies examining the relationship between child care program structure (number of days per week, and hours per day) and cortisol production across the day. Study 1 presents findings comparing cortisol production in 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in either full-day ( = 55) or half-day ( = 63) Head-Start-funded programs. Study 2 presents findings comparing young children enrolled in either full-day full-time (5 days per week; = 37) or full-day part-time (2-3days/week; = 41) primarily tuition-funded programs. Using multilevel modeling and controlling for a number of child factors, attending full-day, full-time programs (as compared to either half-day or part-time programs) was associated with increased cortisol production across the day on child care and home days. Implications for early childhood educators are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.09.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4639940PMC
November 2015

The dynamics of attention during free looking.

PLoS One 2013 14;8(2):e56428. Epub 2013 Feb 14.

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, United States of America.

Simple methods to study attention dynamics in challenging research and practical applications are limited. We explored the utility of examining attention dynamics during free looking with steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs), which reflect the effects of attention on early sensory processing. This method can be used with participants who cannot follow verbal instructions and patients without voluntary motor control. In our healthy participants, there were robust fluctuations in the strength of SSVEPs driven by the fixated and non-fixated stimuli (rapidly changing pictures of faces) in the seconds leading up to the moment they chose to shift their gaze to the next stimulus sequence. Furthermore, the amplitude of SSVEPs driven by the fixated stimuli predicted subsequent recognition of individual stimuli. The results illustrate how information about the temporal course of attention during free looking can be obtained with simple methods based on the attentional modulation of SSVEPs.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0056428PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3572976PMC
August 2013

Attentional dynamics of infant visual foraging.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2012 Jul 25;109(28):11460-4. Epub 2012 Jun 25.

Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

Young infants actively gather information about their world through visual foraging, but the dynamics of this important behavior is poorly understood, partly because developmental scientists have often equated its essential components, looking and attending. Here we describe a method for simultaneously tracking spatial attention to fixated and nonfixated locations during free looking in 12-week-old infants using steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs). Using this method, we found that the sequence of locations an infant inspects during free looking reflects a momentary bias away from locations that were recently the target of covert attention, quickly followed by the redirection of attention--in advance of gaze--to the next target of fixation. The result is a pattern of visual foraging that is likely to support efficient exploration of complex environments by facilitating the inspection of new locations in real time.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1203482109DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3396488PMC
July 2012

Understanding Cortisol Reactivity across the Day at Child Care: The Potential Buffering Role of Secure Attachments to Caregivers.

Early Child Res Q 2012 Jan;27(1):156-165

University of Denver.

Full-day center-based child care has been repeatedly associated with rising cortisol across the child care day. This study addressed the potential buffering role of attachment to mothers and lead teachers in 110 preschoolers while at child care. Using multi-level modeling and controlling for a number of child, family, and child care factors, children with more secure attachments to teachers were more likely to show falling cortisol across the child care day. Attachment to mothers interacted with child care quality, with buffering effects found for children with secure attachments attending higher quality child care. Implications for early childhood educators are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2011.05.005DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3295236PMC
January 2012

The cortisol awakening response (CAR) in 2- to 4-year-old children: effects of acute nighttime sleep restriction, wake time, and daytime napping.

Dev Psychobiol 2012 May 27;54(4):412-22. Epub 2011 Sep 27.

Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

The cortisol awakening response (CAR) is presumed critically important for healthy adaptation. The current literature, however, is hampered by systematic measurement difficulties relative to awakening, especially with young children. While reports suggest the CAR is smaller in children than adults, well-controlled research in early childhood is scarce. We examined whether robust CARs exist in 2- to 4-year-old children and if sleep restriction, wake timing, and napping influence the CAR (n = 7). During a 25-day in-home protocol, researchers collected four salivary cortisol samples (0, 15, 30, 45 min post-wake) following five polysomnographic sleep recordings on nonconsecutive days after 4 hr (morning nap), 7 hr (afternoon nap), 10 hr (evening nap), 13 hr (baseline night), and 16 hr (sleep restriction night) of wakefulness (20 samples/child). The CAR was robust after nighttime sleep, diminished after sleep restriction, and smaller but distinct after morning and afternoon (not evening) naps. Cortisol remained elevated 45 min after morning and afternoon naps. .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.20599DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249011PMC
May 2012

Hypocortisolism as a potential marker of allostatic load in children: associations with family risk and internalizing disorders.

Dev Psychopathol 2011 Aug;23(3):881-896

Department of Psychology, University of Denver.

Although the majority of research attention to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in stress-related disorders and as a marker of allostatic load has focused on overactivation of this stress system, theory and data clearly indicate that underactivation is also an important type of dysregulation. In the current study we focused on low cortisol, exploring a constellation of risk factors including stress exposure, maternal depression, and attenuated basal and stress reactive cortisol in two samples of children. The first sample was comprised of 110 preschoolers living in high-stress environments. Cortisol was assessed across the day at home and at child care as well as across two stress paradigms. These data were used to classify whether children's HPA axis activity was attenuated. Serious family financial strain, maternal depression, and attenuated cortisol all made unique contributions in models predicting current clinical levels of internalizing symptoms as rated by mothers and teachers. The second sample was 166 third, sixth, and ninth graders studied five times across a 1-year period. Maternal and child depression were determined through structured clinical interviews, and stress exposure was assessed via checklist and interview techniques with the child and parent. Cortisol was assessed multiple times across a lab visit at Time 1, and these data were combined into a single continuous measure. Cortisol concentrations across the lab visit interacted with stress exposure across the year such that children with lower average cortisol at Time 1 and increased stress across the 12 months showed elevated levels of internalizing symptoms. Based on these and related data we propose that prior to puberty low cortisol may be an important marker of allostatic load, particularly for risk of depression and anxiety.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S095457941100037XDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4072203PMC
August 2011

Double jeopardy: poorer social-emotional outcomes for children in the NICHD SECCYD experiencing home and child-care environments that confer risk.

Child Dev 2011 Jan-Feb;82(1):48-65

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO 80208, USA.

Using data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network (NICHD SECCYD), the authors examined whether interactions between home and child-care quality affect children's social-emotional adjustment at 24, 36, and 54 months (N = 771). Triadic splits on quality of home and child care were used to examine children in specific ecological niches, with a focus on those who experience the double jeopardy of poor quality home and child-care environments. Children in this niche exhibited the highest levels of mother-reported problem behavior and the lowest levels of prosocial behavior. However, there was evidence that children from lower quality home environments were able to benefit from the compensatory influence of high-quality child care. These results suggest policies aimed at the cross-context influences of protective and risky settings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01540.xDOI Listing
June 2011

Child care setting affects salivary cortisol and antibody secretion in young children.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2010 Sep 1;35(8):1156-66. Epub 2010 Mar 1.

Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

Elevated afternoon levels of cortisol have been found repeatedly in children during child care. However, it is unclear whether these elevations have any consequences. Because physiologic stress systems and the immune system are functionally linked, we examined the relationship between salivary cortisol concentration and antibody secretion across the day at home and in child care, and their relationships with parent-reported illnesses. Salivary antibody provides a critical line of defense against pathogens entering via the mouth, but little is known about its diurnal rhythm in young children or the effect of different environmental contexts. Saliva samples were taken at approximately 10:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on two child care and two home days in a sample of 65 3-5-year-old children attending very high quality, full time child care centers. Results indicated that (1) a rising cortisol profile at child care, driven by higher afternoon levels, predicted lower antibody levels on the subsequent weekend, (2) higher cortisol on weekend days was related to greater parent-reported illness, and (3) a declining daily pattern in sIgA was evident on weekend and child care days for older preschoolers, but only on weekend days for younger preschoolers. The results suggest that elevated cortisol in children during child care may be related to both lowered antibody levels and greater illness frequency.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.02.001DOI Listing
September 2010
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