, Volume 43, Issue 10, pp 2426-2434
Date: 07 Mar 2013

Trajectories of Diurnal Cortisol in Mothers of Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities: Relations to Health and Mental Health

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Abstract

This study used a stress biomarker, diurnal cortisol, to identify how elevated stress in mothers of children and adults with autism and other disabilities relates to their health and mental health. Based on semi-parametric, group-based trajectory analysis of 91 mothers, two distinctive cortisol trajectories emerged: blunted (63 %) or steep (37 %). Mothers in the blunted (vs. steep) trajectory had higher stress levels, lower health ratings, and 89 % of mothers of children with autism, and 53 % with other disabilities, belonged to this trajectory. Atypical cortisol awakening responses and evening rises were differentially associated with anxiety, depression, health problems and employment status. Stress-reducing interventions are needed for parents of children with autism and other disabilities that include biomarkers as indices of risk or treatment outcome.