Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Eleanor Brown, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Deanne Zotter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laura Verrekia, Ph.D.



The present study examined infant cortisol levels in relation to the quantity of their crying episodes in daycare. Infants often cry when they are stressed, and their crying indicates a heightened state of physiological arousal. The stress hormone cortisol is an important indicator of physiological arousal, and predicts young children’s social-emotional and cognitive outcomes. Yet few studies have examined the relationship between crying and the stress hormone cortisol, and the present study represents an initial effort to address this gap. Data included 2462 observations nested within 36 infants aged 4 to 28 months who attended a daycare outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. The measures included child salivary cortisol at morning baseline and post-crying episode and an observational checklist of infant cry occurrence and duration. Results of a zero-order correlational analysis showed that, consistent with study hypotheses, child mean baseline cortisol showed a significant, positive correlation with mean post-cry cortisol, and the mean number of cries per day showed a significant, positive correlation with the mean cry duration. Results of hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) that examined within-child relations did not show significant statistical links between baseline cortisol or cry duration and post-cry cortisol. This study offers initial insights into the relations between cortisol and crying for infants in daycare and suggests the importance of further research on this topic.