Publications by authors named "Sarah Watamura"

27 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

Improving Caregiver Self-Efficacy and Children's Behavioral Outcomes via a Brief Strength-Based Video Coaching Intervention: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial.

Prev Sci 2021 May 7. Epub 2021 May 7.

Department of Psychology and Center for Translational Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA.

Many existing preventive intervention programs focus on promoting responsive parenting practices. However, these parenting programs are often long in duration and expensive, and meta-analytic evidence indicates that families facing high levels of adversity typically benefit less. Moreover, due to a lack of specification and evaluation of conceptual models, the mechanisms underlying program-related changes in caregivers and their children often remain unclear. The current study aimed to test the effectiveness of a video feedback parenting intervention program, Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND), in improving caregivers' self-efficacy and reducing children's behavioral problems. Data derived from a randomized controlled trial using pretest-posttest design with low-income families reporting high levels of stress (N = 91, children aged 4 to 36 months old, 41.8% female). Families were randomly assigned to an active control or FIND intervention group. Results indicated that caregivers in the FIND group exhibited significant improvement in self-report sense of parenting competence and self-efficacy in teaching tasks. These program impacts were particularly pronounced among caregivers who experience high levels of childhood adversity. Findings provide preliminary support for the FIND conceptual model. Specifically, caregivers' improved self-efficacy in teaching tasks was linked to children's reduced internalizing and externalizing problems (notably, direct FIND intervention effects on children's behavioral outcomes were not observed). Overall, results support the effectiveness of FIND in enhancing caregivers' sense of parenting competence and potentially promoting optimal child development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11121-021-01251-6DOI 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

Family processes among Latino Early Head Start families: Understanding the role of caregiver acculturation.

J Community Psychol 2019 07 8;47(6):1433-1448. Epub 2019 May 8.

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado.

The Family Stress Model (FSM) provides a framework for how economic pressure can impact family processes and outcomes, including parent's mental health, parenting, and child problem behaviors. Although the FSM has been widely replicated, samples disproportionately impacted by poverty, including early childhood samples and in particular Latino families with young children, have been largely excluded from FSM research. Therefore, among a sample of Latino Early Head Start children (N = 127), the current study evaluated a modified FSM to understand the direct and indirect pathways among economic pressure, parental depression, parenting self-efficacy, the parent-child relationship, child problem behaviors, and parental acculturation. Results showed that the majority of the direct FSM pathways were well-replicated among Latino caregivers of young children. Further analyses illuminated how some pathways were replicated among more but not among less-acculturated Latino parents. Implications for future FSM research with Latino families as well as for parent-focused interventions are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22198DOI Listing
July 2019

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 co-occurrence of adverse childhood experiences among children investigated for child maltreatment: A latent class analysis.

Child Abuse Negl 2019 01 22;87:18-27. Epub 2017 Nov 22.

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

Children investigated for maltreatment are particularly vulnerable to experiencing multiple adversities. Few studies have examined the extent to which experiences of adversity and different types of maltreatment co-occur in this most vulnerable population of children. Understanding the complex nature of childhood adversity may inform the enhanced tailoring of practices to better meet the needs of maltreated children. Using cross-sectional data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II (N=5870), this study employed latent class analysis to identify subgroups of children who had experienced multiple forms of maltreatment and associated adversities among four developmental stages: birth to 23 months (infants), 2-5 (preschool age), 6-10 (school age), and 11-18 years-old (adolescents). Three latent classes were identified for infants, preschool-aged children, and adolescents, and four latent classes were identified for school-aged children. Among infants, the groups were characterized by experiences of (1) physical neglect/emotional abuse/caregiver treated violently, (2) physical neglect/household dysfunction, and (3) caregiver divorce. For preschool-aged children, the groups included (1) physical neglect/emotional abuse/caregiver treated violently, (2) physical neglect/household dysfunction, and (3) emotional abuse. Children in the school-age group clustered based on experiencing (1) physical neglect/emotional neglect and abuse/caregiver treated violently, (2) physical neglect/household dysfunction, (3) emotional abuse, and (4) emotional abuse/caregiver divorce. Finally, adolescents were grouped based on (1) physical neglect/emotional abuse/household dysfunction, (2) physical abuse/emotional abuse/household dysfunction, and (3) emotional abuse/caregiver divorce. The results indicate distinct classes of adversity experienced among children investigated for child maltreatment, with both stability across developmental periods and unique age-related vulnerabilities. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.11.010DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7780306PMC
January 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

Sleep Moderates the Association Between Response Inhibition and Self-Regulation in Early Childhood.

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 2017 Mar-Apr;46(2):222-235. Epub 2016 Sep 21.

a Department of Integrative Physiology , University of Colorado Boulder.

Early childhood is a time of rapid developmental changes in sleep, cognitive control processes, and the regulation of emotion and behavior. This experimental study examined sleep-dependent effects on response inhibition and self-regulation, as well as whether acute sleep restriction moderated the association between these processes. Preschool children (N = 19; 45.6 ± 2.2 months; 11 female) followed a strict sleep schedule for at least 3 days before each of 2 morning behavior assessments: baseline (habitual nap/night sleep) and sleep restriction (missed nap/delayed bedtime). Response inhibition was evaluated via a go/no-go task. Twelve self-regulation strategies were coded from videotapes of children while attempting an unsolvable puzzle. We then created composite variables representing adaptive and maladaptive self-regulation strategies. Although we found no sleep-dependent effects on response inhibition or self-regulation measures, linear mixed-effects regression showed that acute sleep restriction moderated the relationship between these processes. At baseline, children with better response inhibition were more likely to use adaptive self-regulation strategies (e.g., self-talk, alternate strategies), and those with poorer response inhibition showed increased use of maladaptive self-regulation strategies (e.g., perseveration, fidgeting); however, response inhibition was not related to self-regulation strategies following sleep restriction. Our results showing a sleep-dependent effect on the associations between response inhibition and self-regulation strategies indicate that adequate sleep facilitates synergy between processes supporting optimal social-emotional functioning in early childhood. Although replication studies are needed, findings suggest that sleep may alter connections between maturing emotional and cognitive systems, which have important implications for understanding risk for or resilience to developmental psychopathology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2016.1204921DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5336399PMC
July 2017

The CIRCORT database: Reference ranges and seasonal changes in diurnal salivary cortisol derived from a meta-dataset comprised of 15 field studies.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2016 11 14;73:16-23. Epub 2016 Jul 14.

Institute of General Psychology, Biopsychology and Psychological Methods, Technische Universität Dresden, Zellescher Weg 19, D-01069 Dresden, Germany.

Diurnal salivary cortisol profiles are valuable indicators of adrenocortical functioning in epidemiological research and clinical practice. However, normative reference values derived from a large number of participants and across a wide age range are still missing. To fill this gap, data were compiled from 15 independently conducted field studies with a total of 104,623 salivary cortisol samples obtained from 18,698 unselected individuals (mean age: 48.3 years, age range: 0.5-98.5 years, 39% females). Besides providing a descriptive analysis of the complete dataset, we also performed mixed-effects growth curve modeling of diurnal salivary cortisol (i.e., 1-16h after awakening). Cortisol decreased significantly across the day and was influenced by both, age and sex. Intriguingly, we also found a pronounced impact of sampling season with elevated diurnal cortisol in spring and decreased levels in autumn. However, the majority of variance was accounted for by between-participant and between-study variance components. Based on these analyses, reference ranges (LC/MS-MS calibrated) for cortisol concentrations in saliva were derived for different times across the day, with more specific reference ranges generated for males and females in different age categories. This integrative summary provides important reference values on salivary cortisol to aid basic scientists and clinicians in interpreting deviations from the normal diurnal cycle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.07.201DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5108362PMC
November 2016

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 cortisol awakening response (CAR) in toddlers: Nap-dependent effects on the diurnal secretory pattern.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2015 Oct 4;60:46-56. Epub 2015 Jun 4.

Sleep and Development Laboratory, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado Boulder, 354 UCB, Boulder, CO, 80309, USA. Electronic address:

Introduction: Cortisol levels in adults show a sharp decrease from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Most toddlers take afternoon naps, which is associated with a less mature diurnal pattern characterized by a midday plateau in cortisol secretion. Napping in preschoolers produces a robust cortisol awakening response (CAR), which may account for such maturational differences. This experimental study extends prior work by examining whether the presence and timing of the nap-dependent CAR influences the diurnal cortisol pattern in toddlers.

Methods: Toddlers (n = 28; 13 females; 30-36 months) followed a strict biphasic sleep schedule (≥ 12.5h time in bed; ≥ 90 min nap) for ≥ 3 days before each of four randomly ordered, in-home cortisol assessments. For each assessment, saliva samples were obtained at morning awakening, ∼ 09:30, pre-nap, 0, 15, 30, 45, 90, and 135 min post-nap awakening (verified with actigraphy), and ∼ 19:30. On one day, children napped at their scheduled time, and parents collected saliva samples. On another day, children missed their nap, and parents collected saliva samples at matched times. On two other days, children napped 4h (morning) and 7h (afternoon) after awakening in the morning, during which time researchers collected pre- and post-nap saliva samples. Saliva was assayed for cortisol (μg/dl).

Results: Three-level multilevel models were used to estimate the CAR and diurnal cortisol patterns in all four conditions. Compared to the no-nap condition (no observed CAR; b = -0.78, p = 0.65), we found a pronounced cortisol rise following the morning nap (b = 11.00, p < 0.001) and both afternoon naps whether samples were collected by parents (b = 5.19, p < 0.01) or experimenters (b = 4.97, p < 0.01). Napping in the morning resulted in the most robust post-nap cortisol rise (b = 10.21, p < 0.001). Diurnal patterns were analyzed using piecewise growth modeling that estimated linear coefficients for five separate periods throughout the day (corresponding to morning decline, noon decline, post-nap rise, post-nap decline, and evening decline). We observed a significant post-nap rise in cortisol values on the parent-collected afternoon nap (b = 3.41, p < 0.01) and the experimenter-collected morning nap (b = 7.50, p < 0.01) days as compared to the no-nap day (b = -0.17, p = 0.82). No other differences in diurnal profiles were observed between the parent-collected nap and no-nap conditions; however, toddlers had a steeper evening decline on the day of the morning nap compared to the parent-collected afternoon nap (b = 0.30, p < 0.05) and no-nap conditions (b = 0.27, p < 0.05).

Discussion: These well-controlled findings suggest that the presence and timing of daytime naps influence the pattern of diurnal cortisol secretion in toddlers. They also provide support for the hypothesis that napping is the primary state driving the immature midday plateau in cortisol secretion, which becomes more adult-like across childhood. Prior studies of the diurnal cortisol pattern have employed a cubic model, and therefore, have not detected all possible variations due to napping. Our experimental data have important methodological implications for researchers examining associations between the slope of the diurnal cortisol pattern and developmental outcomes, as well as those utilizing afternoon cortisol reactivity protocols in napping children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.05.009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4526341PMC
October 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

Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation in dysphoric children and adolescents: cortisol reactivity to psychosocial stress from preschool through middle adolescence.

Biol Psychiatry 2010 Sep 23;68(5):484-90. Epub 2010 May 23.

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

Background: Most depressed adults exhibit dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, including cortisol hyperreactivity to psychosocial challenge. In contrast, remarkably little is known about hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in response to psychosocial challenge among at-risk children and adolescents. This study examined cortisol response to psychosocial challenge in nondepressed, at-risk, dysphoric and nondysphoric control youth across different developmentally salient age groups (preschool, third-, sixth-, and ninth-graders).

Methods: Two samples of youth (Study 1-preschoolers; Study 2-third-, sixth-, and ninth-graders) without a history of clinical depression were administered developmentally appropriate psychosocial challenges. Of these nondepressed children, we examined youth at high-risk (n = 60) and low-risk (n = 223) status, as defined by elevated but subthreshold dysphoric symptoms according to multiple informants. Cortisol levels were assessed before and after a psychosocial stressor.

Results: Nondysphoric control youth at all ages displayed the expected cortisol rise to challenge followed by return to baseline. However, prepubertal, at-risk, dysphoric children--specifically preschoolers and third-graders--exhibited cortisol hyporeactivity to challenge, whereas postpubertal dysphoric adolescents (ninth-graders) displayed hyperreactivity to the stressor. Additional analyses revealed that this switch from cortisol hyporeactivity to hyperreactivity among at-risk, dysphoric youth occurred as a function of pubertal development.

Conclusions: Findings suggest a developmental switch in cortisol response for at-risk, dysphoric youth from preschool through adolescence and have implications for a developmental pathophysiological understanding of how at-risk youth across the lifespan might develop depressive disorder.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.04.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921478PMC
September 2010

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

Movement-attention coupling in infancy and attention problems in childhood.

Dev Med Child Neurol 2005 Oct;47(10):660-5

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

Adaptive behavior requires the integration of body movement and attention. Therefore, individual differences in integration of movement and attention during infancy may have significance for development. We contacted families whose 8-year-old children (n=26; 16 females, 10 males; mean age 8 y 2 mo, SD 8 mo) participated in a previous study of movement-attention coupling at 1 or 3 months of age, to assess parent-reported attention or hyperactivity problems using the Child Behavior Checklist and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edn) criteria. Parent-reported attention problems at 8 years of age were associated with less suppression of body movement at onset of looking, and greater rebound of body movement following its initial suppression at 3 months, but not at 1 month. Parent-reported hyperactivity was not related to any of the infant movement-attention measures. Results suggests that the dynamic integration of movement and attention early in life may have functional significance for the development of attention problems in childhood.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0012162205001350DOI Listing
October 2005

Developmental changes in baseline cortisol activity in early childhood: relations with napping and effortful control.

Dev Psychobiol 2004 Nov;45(3):125-33

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

Development of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis was examined using salivary cortisol levels assessed at wake-up, midmorning, midafternoon, and bedtime in 77 children aged 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months, in a cross-sectional design. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) analyses were used to characterize cortisol production across the day and to examine age-related differences. Using area(s) under the curve (AUC), cortisol levels were higher among the 12-, 18-, and 24-month children than among the 30- and 36-month children. For all five age groups, cortisol levels were highest at wake-up and lowest at bedtime. Significant decreases were noted between wake-up and midmorning, and between midafternoon and bedtime. Unlike adults, midafternoon cortisol levels were not significantly lower than midmorning levels. Over this age period, children napped less and scored increasingly higher on parent reports of effortful control. Among the 30- and 36-month children, shorter naps were associated with more adultlike decreases in cortisol levels from midmorning to midafternoon. Considering all of the age groups together, effortful control correlated negatively with cortisol levels after controlling for age. These results suggest that circadian regulation of the HPA axis continues to mature into the third year in humans, and that its maturation corresponds to aspects of behavioral development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.20026DOI Listing
November 2004

Morning-to-afternoon increases in cortisol concentrations for infants and toddlers at child care: age differences and behavioral correlates.

Child Dev 2003 Jul-Aug;74(4):1006-20

Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 55455, USA.

This study examined salivary cortisol, a stress-sensitive hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis hormone in 20 infants (12 females; M age = 10.8 months) and 35 toddlers (20 females; M age = 29.7 months) in full-day, center-based child care. Samples were taken at approximately 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at child care and at home. At child care, 35% of infants and 71% of toddlers showed a rise in cortisol across the day; at home, 71% of infants and 64% of toddlers showed decreases. Toddlers who played more with peers exhibited lower cortisol. Controlling age, teacher-reported social fearfulness predicted higher afternoon cortisol and larger cortisol increases across the day at child care. This phenomenon may indicate context-specific activation of the HPA axis early in life.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00583DOI Listing
January 2004

Rising cortisol at childcare: relations with nap, rest, and temperament.

Dev Psychobiol 2002 Jan;40(1):33-42

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

An unexpected rise in cortisol across the day in full-day, center-based childcare has been recently observed. Most of the children in these studies exhibited the rise across the day at childcare, but the expected drop at home. Possible explanations include more or less napping at childcare than at home. This study measured cortisol during childcare at 10:30 a.m., pre-rest, post-rest, and 3:30 p.m. for 35 children, and at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at home for 8 children. Duration and quality of rest were coded during nap periods. For 91% of children, cortisol rose at childcare and for 75% dropped at home. None of the napping variables were related to the rise at childcare nor were differences found between home and childcare rest. Factors other than daytime rest periods seem likely to account for the rise in cortisol across the childcare day, possibly factors involving the interactional demands of group settings during this developmental period.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.10011DOI Listing
January 2002