Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 457–469 | Cite as

Maternal Cortisol Levels and Behavior Problems in Adolescents and Adults with ASD

  • Marsha Mailick SeltzerEmail author
  • Jan S. Greenberg
  • Jinkuk Hong
  • Leann E. Smith
  • David M. Almeida
  • Christopher Coe
  • Robert S. Stawski
Original paper


Using daily diary methods, mothers of adolescents and adults with ASD (n = 86) were contrasted with a nationally representative comparison group of mothers of similarly-aged unaffected children (n = 171) with respect to the diurnal rhythm of cortisol. Mothers of adolescents and adults with ASD were found to have significantly lower levels of cortisol throughout the day. Within the ASD sample, the son or daughter’s history of behavior problems interacted with daily behavior problems to predict the morning rise of the mother’s cortisol. A history of elevated behavior problems moderated the effect of behavior problems the day before on maternal cortisol level. Implications for interventions for both the mother and the individual with ASD are suggested.


Stress Cortisol Parenting Behavior problems Adolescents Adults 



This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging to support longitudinal research on families of adolescents and adults with autism (R01 AG08768, M. Seltzer, PI) and to conduct a longitudinal follow-up of the MIDUS (Midlife in the US) investigation (P01 AG020166, C. Ryff, PI, and R01AG019239, D. Almeida, PI). The original MIDUS study was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development. Support was also obtained from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for P30 HD03352 to the Waisman Center at the UW-Madison.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marsha Mailick Seltzer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jan S. Greenberg
    • 1
  • Jinkuk Hong
    • 1
  • Leann E. Smith
    • 1
  • David M. Almeida
    • 2
  • Christopher Coe
    • 3
  • Robert S. Stawski
    • 2
  1. 1.Waisman CenterUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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