Does socioeconomic status mediate racial differences in the cortisol response in middle childhood?

Jennifer L. Tackett*, Kathrin Herzhoff, Avanté J. Smack, Kathleen Wade Reardon, Emma K. Adam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective: Race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status are both associated with stress physiology as indexed by cortisol. The present study tested the extent to which racial/ethnic disparities in cortisol reactivity are explained by socioeconomic status. Method: The sample consisted of 296 racially and socioeconomically diverse children ages 8-11 (47% boys). Mothers reported on children's stressors and socioeconomic status; salivary cortisol levels were assessed before and after the Trier Social Stress Test. Results: Results demonstrated that racial group differences in cortisol reactivity were partially accounted for by differences in socioeconomic status, but racial group differences in cortisol recovery were not. Conclusions: These findings suggest that cumulative effects of stress and disadvantage may result in differences in stress response physiology as early as middle childhood, and that race-specific mechanisms account for additional variance in cortisol reactivity and recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)662-672
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • Cortisol reactivity and recovery
  • Racial/ethnic differences
  • Socioeconomic status, middle childhood
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology


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