Cortisol levels six-years after participation in the Family Bereavement Program

Linda Luecken, Melissa J. Hagan, Irwin Sandler, Jenn-Yun Tein, Tim S. Ayers, Sharlene Wolchik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Recent studies have found short-term adrenocortical benefits of early interventions for at-risk children. The current study evaluated the effects of the Family Bereavement Program on cortisol levels six years after the program. Parentally bereaved children were randomly assigned to the 12-week preventive intervention (n=78) or a self-study control (n=61) condition. Six years later (mean age 17.5), salivary cortisol levels were measured before and after a conflict discussion task conducted in late afternoon/early evening. The intervention group had significantly higher cortisol levels across the task compared to the control group, and lower cortisol was associated with higher externalizing symptoms. The group effect did not differ by age at the time of death, and the group difference remained significant after adjustment for pre-intervention mental health and current mental health symptoms. Results suggest that a family-focused intervention for parentally bereaved youth may have prevented the development of attenuated cortisol secretion suggestive of dysregulation and associated with externalizing problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-789
Number of pages5
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Bereavement
  • Cortisol
  • Externalizing
  • Intervention
  • Parental loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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