Mother-Adolescent Physiological Synchrony in Naturalistic Settings: Within-Family Cortisol Associations and Moderators

Lauren M. Papp*, Patricia Pendry, Emma K. Adam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


In this study, the authors examined parent-adolescent cortisol associations in 45 families with adolescent children (24 girls; M age = 15.78 years, SD = 1.44 years). Family members' salivary cortisol levels were measured seven times a day on 2 typical weekdays. Family members provided reports of demographic and health variables, and adolescents rated parent-child relationship characteristics. After accounting for the effects of time of day and relevant demographic and health control variables on cortisol levels, hierarchical linear models indicated the presence of significant covariation over time in mother-adolescent cortisol (i.e., physiological synchrony). Furthermore, moderating tests revealed that mother-adolescent cortisol synchrony was strengthened among dyads characterized by mothers and adolescents spending more time together, and in families rated higher on levels of parent-youth shared activities and parental monitoring or supervision. Analysis of momentary characteristics indicated that maternal presence at the time of cortisol sampling lowered adolescent cortisol levels but did not account for mother-adolescent cortisol synchrony. Within-family physiological synchrony was amplified in momentary contexts of elevated maternal negative affect and elevated adolescent negative affect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)882-894
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • cortisol
  • hierarchical linear modeling
  • parent-child relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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