Prospective effects of post-Bereavement negative events on cortisol activity in parentally bereaved youth

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26 Scopus citations


Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been implicated in the association between adverse childhood experiences, such as parental death, and mental and physical health problems. Recent research indicates that children who experience the death of a parent exhibit HPA axis dysfunction; however, the mechanisms underlying this association have not been explored. It is theorized that physiological dysregulation may result from exposure to stressful life events subsequent to parental death. The current study examined the prospective relations between negative events following parental death and cortisol activity in parentally bereaved youth. A greater number of postbereavement negative events predicted significantly lower levels of cortisol activity 6 years later; this association remained significant after controlling for current externalizing symptoms and recent negative events. Results suggest that higher exposure to stressful events following childhood parental loss may result in long-term attenuated cortisol activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-400
Number of pages7
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Cortisol
  • Parental loss
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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