A systematic examination of cortisol missingness in a sample of preschoolers

Evelyn Mercado, Purdue University


The cortisol awakening response (CAR), an indicator of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functioning, has only recently been examined across early childhood. Ecologically valid assessments of CARs must be conducted in children's home environments posing a unique challenge to researchers by requiring protocol adherence from both child and caregiver to provide complete and accurate data. The current study examined whether characteristics of the sampling design, child, and family, predicted the likelihood of missing salivary cortisol data in order to help future research successfully incorporate home collections of CAR in early childhood. Mothers collected on their child twice a day (awakening and 30 minutes post) across four days (2 non-workdays, 2 workdays) while reporting on child behavior, maternal stress, and demographic variables. Findings indicate that samples collected on a workday were more likely to be missing than samples collected on a non-workday. In addition, having an older mother was associated with a decreased likelihood of missing salivary cortisol data. Implications of the findings for future research will be discussed.




Hibel, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

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