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Psychophysiology. 2008 May;45(3):398-404. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2008.00639.x. Epub 2008 Feb 26.

HPA-axis activity as a predictor of future disruptive behaviors in young adolescents.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Low HPA-axis activity has been proposed as a risk factor for disruptive behaviors. However longitudinal data on this topic are practically lacking. In the present study we investigated if low HPA-axis activity predicted future disruptive behaviors. We included 1,399 boys and girls from the Dutch general population, initially aged 10-12 years. At the first assessment, basal cortisol levels were assessed. At the first assessment and at follow-up 2 years later disruptive behaviors were assessed with parent and self-report questionnaires. The results suggest that the association between low cortisol levels at 8.00 p.m. and future disruptive behaviors according to the parents was only present for boys. More importantly however, the results suggest that low HPA-axis activity is not a good predictor for disruptive behaviors, but could be valuable to identify those with a poor prognosis, once disruptive behaviors are present in preadolescence.

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