Family environment is associated with HPA-axis activity in adolescents.The TRAILS study
The purpose of the present study was to investigate the developmental programming part of the theory of biological sensitivity to context using family environmental factors and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning. Specifically, we investigated whether perceived parenting (Rejection and Emotional Warmth) and socio-economic status (SES) predicted basal cortisol levels and the cortisol awakening response (CAR). In a population-based cohort of 1594 adolescents (mean age = 11.08, SD = 0.54) we assessed salivary cortisol, SES and perceived parenting. Perceived parental Emotional Warmth showed an inverse, linear association with basal cortisol levels. In addition, there was a curvilinear relationship between SES and both basal cortisol levels and the CAR. Our findings with regard to basal cortisol levels confirmed our hypothesis: lower basal HPA-axis activity in both high and low SES families compared to intermediate SES families.