Capturing the dynamic nature of stress exposure in the Pittsburgh Girls Study

Kate Keenan*, Haoyi Fu, Irene Tung, Johnny Berona, Robert T. Krafty, Alison E. Hipwell, Stephanie D. Stepp, Kristen Carpio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The science of stress exposure and health in humans has been hampered by differences in operational definitions of exposures and approaches to defining timing, leading to results that lack consistency and specificity. In the present study we aim to empirically derive variability in type, timing and chronicity of stress exposure for Black and White females using prospectively collected data in the Pittsburgh Girls Study (PGS). Methods: The PGS is an ongoing 20-year longitudinal, community-based study. In this paper we focused on annual caregiver reports of three domains of stress: subsistence (e.g., resource strain, overcrowding); safety (e.g., community violence, inter-adult aggression), and caregiving (e.g., separation, maternal depression) from early childhood through adolescence. Z-scores were used to conduct a finite mixture model-based latent class trajectory analysis. Model fit was compared using the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) and Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC). We examined differences in timing and chronicity of stress exposure between Black and White girls. Results: Distinct trajectory groups characterized by differential timing and chronicity of stress exposure were observed across all stress domains. Six trajectories characterized subsistence and safety stress, and five characterized caregiving stress. Variability in initial level, chronicity, and magnitude and timing of change was observed within and across domains of stressors. Race differences also varied across the domains: race differences in timing and chronicity were most pronounced for the subsistence and safety domains, whereas Black and White girls had similar levels of exposure to caregiving stress. Conclusions: Substantial variability in timing and chronicity was observed within and across stress domains. Modeling specific domains and dimensions of stress exposure is likely important in testing associations between exposure and health; such specificity may lead to more effective deployment of preventive interventions based on stress exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100983
JournalSSM - Population Health
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Chronicity
  • Development
  • Exposure
  • PGS
  • Stress
  • Timing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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