Cortisol and alpha amylase reactivity and timing of puberty: Vulnerabilities for antisocial behaviour in young adolescents

Elizabeth J. Susman, Samantha Dockray, Douglas A. Granger, Keeva T. Blades, William Randazzo, Jodi A. Heaton, Lorah D. Dorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


The theoretical framework proposed that cortisol and saliva alpha amylase (sAA) reactivitiy are vulnerabilities for antisocial behaviour. These indices of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and sympathetic-adrenal-medulary (SAM) components of the stress system, respectively, were considered vulnerabilities that also interact with the putative stressful transition of timing of puberty to predispose adolescents toward antisocial behaviour. The sample consisted of 8- to-13-year-old boys and girls (N=135) and a parent. For boys, timing of puberty moderated the association between cortisol and sAA reactivity and antisocial behaviour. Higher cortisol reactivity in later timing boys was related to a composite index of antisocial behaviour and rule-breaking behaviour problems. In contrast, lower sAA reactivity and earlier timing of puberty in boys was related to rule breaking and conduct disorder symptoms. The interaction between timing of puberty and HPA or SAM regulation and timing of puberty in boys suggests that reproductive, neuroendocrine mechanisms may be involved in the extensively documented adverse consequences of off-time pubertal development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-569
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Cortisol
  • Salivary alpha amylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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