Psychological and stress hormone correlates in early life: A key to HPA-axis dysregulation and normalisation

Julie M. Turner-Cobb

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Substantial recent research has focused on examining hormone indicators of psychosocial stress and on how relationships between stress and hormone changes might be linked to chronic illness. Particular attention has been paid to disease progression in cancer and HIV/AIDS. This focus has generated a plethora of research which has contributed both theoretically and clinically to the understanding of disease experience and the rate of disease progression. Measurement of salivary cortisol levels and diurnal variation has substantially advanced research methodology. Applying the unifying concept of allostasis and accumulated lifetime stress, this review attempts to assess the relevance of psychological and stress hormone correlates to disease resistance and health, through an examination of such correlates on the experience and outcomes of stress during childhood. Focus is on the role and importance of naturalistic social stress experiences such as school transition in healthy children, with emphasis on salivary cortisol as an endocrine marker of HPA-axis activation. It is argued that differing research perspectives offer valuable insight into the often assumed but largely unexplored links between early life experience and subsequent physical health outcomes in adulthood. Longitudinal studies incorporating measures of acute physical health outcome and of learning and memory are clearly needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-57
Number of pages11
JournalStress - The International Journal on the Biology of Stress
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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