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Executive functioning, cortisol reactivity, and symptoms of psychopathology in girls with premature adrenarche

  • Lisa M. Sontag-Padilla (a1), Lorah D. Dorn (a2) (a3), Abbigail Tissot (a2) (a3), Elizabeth J. Susman (a4), Sue R. Beers (a5) and Susan R. Rose (a2) (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 31 January 2012

The study examined the interaction between early maturational timing (measured by premature adrenarche [PA]) and executive functioning and cortisol reactivity on symptoms of psychopathology. The study included 76 girls aged 6 through 8 years (mean = 7.50, SD = 0.85) with PA (n = 40) and on-time adrenarche (n = 36). Girls completed a battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests and blood sampling for cortisol. Parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist. The results demonstrated that girls with PA with lower levels of executive functioning had higher externalizing and anxious symptoms compared to other girls. In addition, girls with PA who demonstrated increases in serum cortisol had higher externalizing symptoms than those with stable patterns. Finally, girls with PA who demonstrated decreases in cortisol reported higher depressive symptoms. The findings from this study provide important information concerning the impact of cognitive functioning and stress reactivity on adjustment to early maturation in girls with PA. The results of this research may inform screening and intervention efforts for girls who may be at greatest risk for emotional and behavioral problems as a result of early maturation.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Lisa M. Sontag-Padilla, Rand Corporation, 4570 Fifth Avenue, Suite 600, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2665; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
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