Negative relationships in the family-of-origin predict attenuated cortisol in emerging adults

Linda Luecken, Amy Kraft, Melissa J. Hagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Negative childhood family environments have been associated with stress-related physical and psychological health consequences across the lifespan. The present study examined the relation between adverse relationships in the family of origin and physiological stress response, as measured by salivary cortisol, in emerging adulthood. Seventy-six university students (age range = 18-22) selected from intact married families-of-origin characterized by either negative (n = 39) or positive (n = 37) relationship quality engaged in a challenging role play task. Results from multilevel models indicated that those from negative families exhibited significantly lower salivary cortisol across the task than those from positive families. This relation did not change in strength or direction after controlling for experiences with abuse or recent anxiety or depressive symptoms. These findings suggest the significance of early family relationships on the long-term activity of the HPA axis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-417
Number of pages6
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Childhood family cortisol stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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