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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Dec;62:279-91. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.08.018. Epub 2015 Aug 28.

Developmental histories of perceived racial discrimination and diurnal cortisol profiles in adulthood: A 20-year prospective study.

Author information

1
School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, 2120 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208, United States; Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, 2040 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, United States. Electronic address: ek-adam@northwestern.edu.
2
School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, 2120 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208, United States; Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, 2040 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, United States.
3
Human Development and Family Science, University of Missouri Gentry Hall, Columbia, MO 64221, United States.
4
Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, 2040 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, United States; Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Swift Hall, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, United States.
5
Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Swift Hall, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, United States.
6
Psychiatry, University of California at San Francisco, 3333 California Street, Laurel Heights, San Francisco, CA 94143, United States.
7
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, United States.
8
Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University, 203 Spidle Hall, Auburn, AL 36849 United States.
9
School of Education, University of California, Irvine, 2068 Education, Mail Code: 5500, Irvine, CA 92697, United States.

Abstract

Perceived racial discrimination (PRD) has been associated with altered diurnal cortisol rhythms in past cross-sectional research. We investigate whether developmental histories of PRD, assessed prospectively, are associated with adult diurnal cortisol profiles. One-hundred and twelve (N=50 Black, N=62 White) adults from the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study provided saliva samples in adulthood (at approximately age 32 years) at waking, 30min after waking, and at bedtime for 7 days. Diurnal cortisol measures were calculated, including waking cortisol levels, diurnal cortisol slopes, the cortisol awakening response (CAR), and average daily cortisol (AUC). These cortisol outcomes were predicted from measures of PRD obtained over a 20-year period beginning when individuals were in 7th grade (approximately age 12). Greater average PRD measured across the 20-year period predicted flatter adult diurnal cortisol slopes for both Black and White adults, and a lower CAR. Greater average PRD also predicted lower waking cortisol for Black, but not White adults. PRD experiences in adolescence accounted for many of these effects. When adolescent and young adult PRD are entered together predicting cortisol outcomes, PRD experiences in adolescence (but not young adulthood) significantly predicted flatter diurnal cortisol slopes for both Black and White adults. Adolescent, but not young adult PRD, also significantly predicted lower waking and lower average cortisol for Black adults. Young adult PRD was, however, a stronger predictor of the CAR, predicting a marginally lower CAR for Whites, and a significantly larger CAR for Blacks. Effects were robust to controlling for covariates including health behaviors, depression, income and parent education levels. PRD experiences interacted with parent education and income to predict aspects of the diurnal cortisol rhythm. Although these results suggest PRD influences on cortisol for both Blacks and Whites, the key findings suggest that the effects are more pervasive for Blacks, affecting multiple aspects of the cortisol diurnal rhythm. In addition, adolescence is a more sensitive developmental period than adulthood for the impacts of PRD on adult stress biology.

KEYWORDS:

Adolescence; Cortisol; Diurnal cortisol rhythms; Early experience; Hypocortisolism; Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis; Racial discrimination

PMID:
26352481
PMCID:
PMC4739843
DOI:
10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.08.018
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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