Pubertal stress recalibration and later social and emotional adjustment among adolescents: The role of early life stress

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2022 Jan;135:105578. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2021.105578. Epub 2021 Oct 29.


The current study investigated whether recalibration of the hypothalamic-pituitary -adrenocortical (HPA) axis stress response in youth who had previously experienced early life stress (ELS) would predict socioemotional adjustment in a follow-up assessment approximately 2-4 years later when youth were 12- to 21-years old. The sample consisted of previously institutionalized (PI) (N = 96) youth and a comparison non-adopted (NA) group (N = 117). Youth were 16 years old on average at the time of the follow-up assessment. Parent and youth-reported measures were used to assess youth's internalizing symptoms and emotion regulation. Parent-reported measures were used to assess youth's externalizing symptoms. We tested whether showing cortisol increases (vs. not) across the peripubertal period was associated with later social and emotional adjustment differently for PI and NA youth. Significant interactions emerged showing that for PI youth only, increases in cortisol reactivity across the peripubertal period was associated with poorer subsequent socioemotional functioning.

Keywords: Adolescence; Cortisol; Emotional adjustment; HPA; Institutionalized; Recalibration; Social functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Emotional Adjustment* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Puberty* / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological* / physiopathology
  • Young Adult


  • Hydrocortisone