INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN STRESS RESPONSES AMONG KINDERGARTENERS:BEHAVIOR AND CORTISOL ASSESSED IN SPEECH TASK

Open Access
Author:
Ford-Matz, Daley Marie
Area of Honors:
Psychology
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Kristin Buss, Thesis Supervisor
  • David A. Rosenbaum, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • cortisol
  • social inhibition
  • shy
  • shyness
  • regulation
Abstract:
This study examined behavior in response to a speech task (a putative social stressor) and how it related to cortisol levels in five-year-olds. Children were asked to participate in the birthday speech task, a paradigm during which they experienced a threat to their social self. It was expected that overall cortisol would increase in response to the stressor and that increases would be positively correlated with social inhibition and shyness. It was also predicted that timid children would use more regulating behaviors to control their distress. Overall there was no significant increase in cortisol during the speech task. When participants were grouped by the timidity of speech (an indicator of distress), however, there were differences in regulatory behaviors and how these related to cortisol reactivity. Attention shifting (a regulatory behavior)was associated with a decrease in cortisol reactivity in timid children. It is possible that the use of this alienating social behavior (frequent attention shifting) could result in an unhealthy cycle of peer rejection and increased social withdrawal.