Measuring adrenocortical attunement in parent-child dyads

Behavioral attunement, including matching affect, eye gaze, and vocalizations during discreet events, is associated with maternal sensitivity and quick repair of ruptures between mother and child, which in turn are associated with increased self-regulation, attachment security, and fewer behavioral problems in children (Feldman, 2012). Reactive adrenocortical attunement, or the coordination of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity in response to a stressor, is a biological measure of mother-child synchronicity that has also been associated with maternal sensitivity. Parent-child relationships change rapidly as older children navigate the tension between dependency and autonomy from their parental support system. Reactive attunement in middle childhood, therefore, may have unique predictive value for child and adolescent outcomes. The current project is testing a new version of the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST; Kirschbaum, Pirke, & Hellhammer, 1993), adapted to include both parents and children.

Disentangling the relative contributions of depression history and parenting on child outcomes

Parental depression is a robust risk factor for offspring depression, both through environmental and biological mechanisms. What is driving the relationship between parental and offspring depression, however, is largely unknown. We are investigating behavioral and hormonal attunement in a sample of depressed and never-depressed parents of 8-10 year old children, in order to understand better points of intervention for at-risk youth.

Longitudinal patterns of hormone coupling in middle childhood and early adolescence

Previous research has explored stress and pubertal hormones in parallel; recently, however, more work has explored the relationships between different hormones during development, and how hormonal cross-talk may be influenced by the environment. The current project seeks to expand on previous work (Black et al., 2018) establishing patterns of hormone coupling in middle childhood, investigating whether these patterns continue into early adolescence and how they may be influenced by environmental variables.