Background: Approximately 15 million children in the United States grow up in poverty circumstances (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2018), as 24% of all children under the age of 6 live in households with income levels classified as below the federal poverty guideline (Jiang et al., 2016). Recent research has highlighted the impact of early childhood poverty circumstances on physiological systems that respond to stress (Lupien et al., 2001), with implications for typical development in the prefrontal cortex (Hair et al., 2015) and related executive functioning (Blair & Raver, 2016). Method: The present study investigated relations among various components of teacher-reported executive functioning (BRIEF; Gioia et al., 2000) and total cortisol output of 318 young children (ages 3-5 years) across a preschool day. Salivary cortisol was sampled in duplicate at 4 times across 2 days in the beginning of the school year, resulting in a total of 16 samples per child. Results and Implications: We hypothesized that higher cortisol levels, likely attributable to poverty-stress (Blair et al., 2011) across the preschool day would relate to greater difficulties in teacher-reported EF, controlling for child age, sex, and family income. A multiple regression model that aligned with this hypothesis predicted BRIEF, General Composite Score with statistical significance. Moreover, child salivary cortisol across the preschool day predicted teacher-reported executive functioning for each domain score of the BRIEF. Implications concern understanding the impact of stress on executive functioning in the preschool classroom and promoting positive outcomes for children facing poverty risk.
Brown, E. D., Weaver, Z., Garnett, M. L., Streich, M., & Shivde, G. (2021). Cortisol relates to executive functioning for children attending Head Start preschool. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.wcupa.edu/psych_stuwork/12