Cortisol reactivity is positively related to executive function in preschool children attending head start

Child Dev. May-Jun 2005;76(3):554-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00863.x.


This study examined relations among cortisol reactivity and measures of cognitive function and social behavior in 4- to 5-year-old children (N = 169) attending Head Start. Saliva samples for the assay of cortisol were collected at the beginning, middle, and end of an approximately 45-min testing session. Moderate increase in cortisol followed by down-regulation of this increase was positively associated with measures of executive function, self-regulation, and letter knowledge but not with measures of receptive vocabulary, emotion knowledge, or false belief understanding. Regression analysis indicates that executive function accounted for the association between cortisol reactivity and self-regulation and letter knowledge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Concept Formation / physiology*
  • Culture
  • Early Intervention, Educational*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Personality Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Poverty / psychology
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Vocabulary


  • Hydrocortisone