Early caregiving and physiological stress responses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


Inadequate early caregiving has been associated with risks of stress-related psychological and physical illness over the life span. Dysregulated physiological stress responses may represent a mechanism linking early caregiving to health outcomes. This paper reviews evidence linking early caregiving to physiological responses that can increase vulnerability to stress-related illness. A number of high-risk family characteristics, including high conflict, divorce, abuse, and parental psychopathology, are considered in the development of stress vulnerability. Three theoretical pathways linking caregiving to physiological stress responses are outlined: genetic, psychosocial, and cognitive-affective. Exciting preliminary evidence suggests that early caregiving can impact long-term physiological stress responses. Directions for future research in this area are suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-191
Number of pages21
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Caregiving
  • Cortisol
  • Early experiences
  • Health
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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