Poverty and HPA Functioning in Young Children

W. Roger Mills-Koonce and Nissa Towe-Goodman

in The Oxford Handbook of Poverty and Child Development

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199769100
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Poverty and HPA Functioning in Young Children

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This chapter provides a detailed summary of the effects of poverty and poverty-related stressors on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity in young children. The HPA axis is a primary component of the human stress responses system and has been implicated in multiple domains of normative functioning, including cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes, as well as the development of psychopathology in children and adults. The primary focus of this chapter is on the environmental correlates of cortisol in young children, including the diurnal patterns of baseline levels as well as cortisol reactivity and regulation levels of cortisol in response to emotional challenge or stress. We examine associations between poverty contexts and HPA functioning, as well as potential experiential mediators of these associations, including family processes, child care, and broader environmental variables. The short- and long-term implications of these associations are discussed, as well as potential future directions for this research.

Keywords: poverty; HPA; cortisol; family; parenting; risk; early childhood

Article.  12890 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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