The relation between gaze aversion and cortisol reactivity in middle childhood
SourceHormones and Behavior, 65, 2, (2014), pp. 173-178
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI ON
Hormones and Behavior
The present study sought to investigate the relation between ethological observations of children's gaze aversion during a psychosocial stress task and their cortisol reactivity to the task, and how this relation might be moderated by how stressful the children perceived the stress task to be. Videos of 140 children (74 girls; M-age = 10.60 years) performing a psychosocial stress task in front of a jury were coded for displays of the children's gaze aversion from the jury, and saliva samples were taken to determine their cortisol reactivity. A questionnaire assessed the children's level of perceived stress. Results showed higher cortisol reactivity in children who perceived the task as more stressful. Furthermore, a quadratic relation between gaze aversion and cortisol was found which depended on the level of perceived stress: for children with low levels of perceived stress, cortisol reactivity was lowest with intermediate levels of gaze aversion, whereas for children with high levels of perceived stress cortisol reactivity was highest at intermediate levels of gaze aversion. The results suggest a modest association between subjective and physiological stress responses in 9- to 11-year-olds, and indicate that gaze aversion may play only a minor role as a behavioural coping strategy at this age.
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