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Title page for ETD etd-06272011-143903

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Morris, Matthew Carlson
URN etd-06272011-143903
Title Stress reactivity and regulation in young adults at varied risk for depression
Degree PhD
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Judy Garber Committee Chair
Bruce Compas Committee Member
David Cole Committee Member
Richard Shelton Committee Member
  • cortisol
  • coping
  • depression
  • stress
Date of Defense 2011-06-10
Availability unrestricted
This study examined cortisol reactivity and regulation to a psychosocial stress task in 102 young adults, ages 18 to 31 (mean age = 22.97, SD = 3.87), at varied risk for depression (56 remitted depressed, 46 never depressed). Participants were randomly assigned to either a high stress (i.e., high social evaluation) or control (i.e., no social-evaluative threat) condition. Individuals with a history of depression showed blunted cortisol responses to both high and low stress conditions, whereas never depressed participants in the high stress condition exhibited greater cortisol output compared to those in the control condition. Greater recent life stress and higher levels of involuntary engagement also were associated with blunted cortisol reactivity, whereas primary control engagement coping was associated with increased cortisol reactivity and output. Thus, both recent stressors and past depressive episodes were associated with alterations in HPA-axis activity, which suggests that stress sensitization processes may be linked to progressive blunting of cortisol responses. Findings are discussed in terms of models linking executive function to effective responses to psychological stress.
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