Parents' communication skills and adolescents' salivary α-amylase and cortisol response patterns

Tamara D. Afifi, Douglas A. Granger, Amanda Denes, Andrea Joseph, Desiree Aldeis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The primary goal of this study was to examine patterns or groupings of adolescents' hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) (measured through cortisol) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) (measured through salivary alpha amylase or sAA) responses as a function of their parents' communication skills. A related goal was to decipher whether adolescents who demonstrate different patterns of physiological reactivity vary in their personal and relational health. The sample consisted of 118 parent-adolescent dyads who were asked to talk about something stressful related to the parents' relationship. The results revealed that adolescents' perceptions of their parent's communication skills predicted the likelihood that the adolescents would overreact, show no reaction, or down regulate in response to such a discussion, but only for sAA. All of the communication skills in question-social support, communication competence, feeling caught between the parents' conflict, and inappropriate disclosures-supported the hypothesis that adolescents with parents who they think are more communicatively skilled are better able to recover from a stressful interaction than adolescents whose parents are less skilled. Adolescents who were considered "overreactors" in sAA also had more negative health indices, somewhat lower psychological well-being, and poorer quality relationships with their parents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-295
Number of pages23
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Communication Competence
  • Cortisol
  • Disclosure
  • Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis
  • Interparental Conflict
  • Physiology
  • Salivary Alpha-Amylase
  • Social Support
  • Sympathetic Nervous System

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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