Biological Stress Regulation in Female Adolescents: A Key Role for Confiding

Andrea Oskis, Angela Clow, Catherine Loveday, Frank Hucklebridge, David A. Sbarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Attachment behaviors play a critical role in regulating emotion within the context of close relationships, and attachment theory is currently used to inform evidence-based practice in the areas of adolescent health and social care. This study investigated the association between female adolescents’ interview-based attachment behaviors and two markers of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis activity: cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Unlike the classic stress hormone cortisol, there is very limited investigation of DHEA—a quintessential developmental hormone—in relation to attachment, especially in adolescents. Fifty-five healthy females mean age 14.36 (±2.41) years participated in the attachment style interview. A smaller cortisol awakening response was related to anxious attachment attitudes, including more fear of rejection, whereas greater morning basal DHEA secretion was only predicted by lower levels of reported confiding in one’s mother. These attachment–hormone relationships may be developmental markers in females, as they were independent of menarche status. These findings highlight that the normative shifts occurring in attachment to caregivers around adolescence are reflected in adolescents’ biological stress regulation. We discuss how studying these shifts can be informed by evolutionary–developmental theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1066-1077
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Adolescence
  • Attachment
  • CAR
  • Cortisol awakening response
  • DHEA
  • HPA axis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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