The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a critical component of the body's stress-response neurobiological system, and its development and functioning are shaped by the social environment. Much of our understanding of the effects of the caregiving environment on the HPA axis is based on (a) parenting in young children and (b) individual maternal stressors, such as depression. Yet, less is known about how parenting behaviors and maternal stressors interact to influence child cortisol regulation, particularly in older children. With an ethnically diverse sample of 199 mothers and their early adolescent children (M = 11.00 years; 54% female), a profile analytic approach was used to investigate how multiple phenotypes of maternal stress co-occur and moderate the relation between parenting behaviors and youths' diurnal cortisol rhythms. Latent profile analysis yielded 4 profiles: current parenting stress, concurrent parenting and childhood stress, childhood stress, and low stress. For mothers with the concurrent parenting and childhood stress profile, inconsistent discipline, poor parental supervision, and harsh caregiving behaviors each were related to flattened diurnal cortisol rhythms in their adolescents. For mothers with the current parenting stress and childhood stress profiles, their use of inconsistent discipline was associated with flattened diurnal cortisol rhythms in their adolescents. For mothers with the low stress profile, none of the parenting behaviors was related to their adolescents' cortisol regulation. Findings suggest that based on mothers' stress profile, parenting behaviors are differentially related to youths' diurnal cortisol rhythms. Implications for parenting interventions are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry