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Allostasis and allostatic load in the context of poverty in early childhood

  • Clancy Blair (a1), C. Cybele Raver (a1), Douglas Granger (a2), Roger Mills-Koonce (a3), Leah Hibel (a4) and The Family Life Project Key Investigators (a2) (a3)...

This paper examined the relation of early environmental adversity associated with poverty to child resting or basal level of cortisol in a prospective longitudinal sample of 1135 children seen at 7, 15, 24, 35, and 48 months of age. We found main effects for poor housing quality, African American ethnicity, and low positive caregiving behavior in which each was uniquely associated with an overall higher level of cortisol from age 7 to 48 months. We also found that two aspects of the early environment in the context of poverty, adult exits from the home and perceived economic insufficiency, were related to salivary cortisol in a time-dependent manner. The effect for the first of these, exits from the home, was consistent with the principle of allostatic load in which the effects of adversity on stress physiology accumulate over time. The effect for perceived economic insufficiency was one in which insufficiency was associated with higher levels of cortisol in infancy but with a typical but steeper decline in cortisol with age at subsequent time points.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Clancy Blair, 246 Greene Street, Kimball Hall, 8th floor, New York, NY 10003;
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