Salivary cortisol and aggression in a population-based longitudinal study of adolescent males
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Chronic antisocial behaviour in youth has been associated with cortisol, a measure of stress reactivity. However, some studies have found low cortisol levels, while others have found elevated cortisol levels. The present study compared variously defined aggressive subgroups for differences in salivary cortisol. A population-based sample of boys was followed longitudinally from childhood to adolescence. Assessments of different forms of antisocial behaviour were obtained from various informants at several points in time, and cortisol was collected at age 13. Higher cortisol levels were found in boys with conduct disorder (CD) than in boys without CD. In addition, boys with an aggressive form of CD had higher cortisol levels than boys who showed a covert form of CD. Furthermore, reactive aggression was strongly correlated with elevated cortisol. Adolescent boys with chronic reactive aggression and those who scored high on aggressive CD symptoms seem to have a more active hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system.
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