Do infants show a cortisol awakening response?

Melissa A. Bright, Douglas A. Granger, Janet E. Frick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Upon awakening from sleep, combined processes of deactivation of the hippocampus and activation of suprachiasmatic nucleus result in a marked increase in cortisol release from structures within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This phenomenon, termed the cortisol awakening response (CAR), has been studied extensively in adults. In the current study, we examine this phenomenon for the first time in infancy. Saliva samples were collected by 32 mothers from themselves and their infants (13 males; 7.8-17.4 months of age) at the infant's AM waking (and 30min later), and upon waking from the infant's first nap (and 30min later). In contrast to what has been observed with the CAR in adults, cortisol levels declined from AM waking to 30min post-waking. Moreover, cortisol levels did not significantly rise or fall following naps. Consistent with prior research, both group-level and dyadic-level analyses showed that cortisol levels for mother-infant dyads were associated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)736-743
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortisol awakening response
  • Diurnal rhythm
  • HPA axis
  • Infancy
  • Infant
  • Physiological attunement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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