Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 3145–3153 | Cite as

Parental Problem Drinking is Associated with Children’s Adrenocortical Reactivity to Stress

  • Peggy S. Keller
  • Douglas A. Granger
  • Joanne Tyler
  • Lauren R. Gilbert
  • Eric A. Haak
  • Shuang Bi
Original Paper

Abstract

The hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis plays an important role in adaptation to stress, but is vulnerable to chronic stress exposure. Parental problem drinking (PPD) represents such a chronic stressor, but there has been little research on children’s HPA axis activity in the context of PPD. To address this gap, associations between PPD and children’s adrenocortical reactivity were examined, with marital aggression and child emotional security as potential intervening variables. Participants were 69 community families (children aged 6–12 years). Children provided saliva samples before and 20 min after a social stress test, which were assayed for cortisol. Parents reported on their problem drinking (PD) and marital aggression, and children reported on their emotional insecurity about the marital relationship. Mother PD was significantly related to greater adrenocortical reactivity in her offspring. Father PD was significantly related to children’s greater involvement in marital conflict, which was significantly related to greater adrenocortical reactivity. Findings therefore indicate that parental PD is related to greater sensitivity of the HPA axis to social stress, partially because of emotional insecurity.

Keywords

Problem drinking Family stress Cortisol Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis Marital aggression Emotional insecurity 

References

  1. Adinoff, B., Junghanns, K., Kiefer, F., & Krishnan-Sarin, S. (2005). Suppression of the HPA axis stress-response: Implications for relapse. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 29, 1351–1355.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahnert, L., Gunnar, M. R., Lamb, M. E., & Barthel, M. (2004). Transition to child care: Associations with infant–mother attachment, infant negative emotion, and cortisol elevations. Child Development, 75(3), 639–650.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Blair, C., Granger, D., Kivlighan, K. T., Mills-Koonce, R., Willoughby, M., Greenberg, M. T., et al. (2008). Maternal and child contributions to cortisol response to emotional arousal in young children from low-income, rural communities. Developmental Psychology, 44, 1095–1109.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Booth, A., Carver, K., & Granger, D. A. (2000). Biosocial perspectives on the family. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 1018–1034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boyce, W. T., & Ellis, B. J. (2005). Biological sensitivity to context: I. An evolutionary-developmental theory of the origins and functions of stress reactivity. Development and Psychopathology, 17, 271–301.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruce, J., Fisher, P. A., Pears, K. C., & Levine, S. (2009). Morning cortisol levels in preschool-aged foster children: Difference effects of maltreatment type. Developmental Psychobiology, 51(1), 14–23.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Chassin, L., Curran, P. J., Hussong, A., & Colder, C. R. (1996). The relation of parent alcoholism to adolescent substance use: A longitudinal follow-up study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 70–80.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Chrousos, G. P., & Gold, P. W. (1992). The concepts of stress and stress system disorders: Overview of physical and behavioral homeostasis. Journal of the American Medical Association, 267, 1244–1252.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Condren, R. M., O’Neill, A., Ryan, M. C. M., Barrett, P., & Thakore, J. H. (2002). HPA axis response to a psychological stressor in generalized social phobia. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 27, 693–703.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Congrave, K. M., Hall, W. D., & Saunders, J. B. (1995). The AUDIT questionnaire: Choosing a cut-off score. Addition, 90, 1349–1356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. (1994). Children and marital conflict: The impact of family dispute and resolution. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  12. Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. (2010). Marital conflict and children: An emotional security perspective. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cummings, E. M., Goeke-Morey, M. C., Papp, L. M., & Dukewich, T. L. (2002). Children’s responses to mothers’ and fathers’ emotionality and tactics in marital conflict in the home. Journal of Family Psychology, 16, 478–492.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Davies, P. T., Forman, E. M., Rasi, J. A., & Stevens, K. I. (2002). Assessing children’s emotional security in the interparental relationship: The Security in the Interparental Subsystem Scales. Child Development, 73(2), 544–562.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Davies, P. T., Sturge-Apple, M. L., & Cicchetti, D. (2011). Interparental aggression and children’s adrenocortical reactivity: Testing an evolutionary model of allostatic load. Development and Psychopathology, 23(03), 801–814.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Davies, P. T., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Cicchetti, D., & Cummings, E. M. (2007). The role of child adrenocortical functioning in pathways between interparental conflict and child maladjustment. Developmental Psychology, 43(4), 918–930.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Davies, P. T., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Cicchetti, D., & Cummings, E. M. (2008). Adrenocortical underpinnings of children’s psychological reactivity to interparental conflict. Child Development, 79(6), 1693–1706.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Davies, P. T., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Cicchetti, D., Manning, L. G., & Zale, E. (2009). Children’s patterns of emotional reactivity to conflict as explanatory mechanisms in links between interpartner aggression and child physiological functioning. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50(11), 1384–1391.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Dawes, M. A., Dorn, L. D., Moss, H. B., Yaho, J. K., Kirisci, L., Ammerman, R. T., & Tarter, R. E. (1999). Hormonal and behavioral homeostasis in boys at risk for substance abuse. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 55, 165–176.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. DeLucia, C., Belz, A., & Chassin, L. (2001). Do adolescent symptomatology and family environment vary over time with fluctuations in paternal alcohol impairment? Developmental Psychology, 37, 207–216.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Eiden, R., Chavez, F., & Leonard, K. E. (1999). Parent–infant interactions among families with alcoholic fathers. Development and Psychopathology, 11(4), 745–762.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Fairchild, G., van Goozen, S. M., Stollery, S. J., Brown, J., Gardiner, J., Herbert, J., & Goodyer, I. M. (2008). Cortisol diurnal rhythm and stress reactivity in male adolescents with early-onset or adolescence-onset conduct disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 64(7), 599–606.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Grant, B. F. (2000). Estimates of US children exposed to alcohol abuse and dependence in the family. American Journal of Public Health, 90, 112–115.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Gunnar, M. R., & Donzella, B. (2002). Social regulation of the cortisol levels in early human development. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 27, 199–220.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Gunnar, M. R., & Stone, C. (1984). The effects of positive maternal affect on infant responses to pleasant, ambiguous, and fear-provoking toys. Child Development, 55, 1231–1236.Google Scholar
  26. Haller, M., & Chassin, L. (2011). The unique effects of parental alcohol and affective disorders, parenting, and parental negative affect on adolescent maladjustment. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 57(3), 4.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Hart, J., Gunnar, M., & Cicchetti, D. (1995). Salivary Cortisol in maltreated children- evidence of relations between neuroendocrine activity and social competence. Development and Psychopathology, 7(1), 11–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hawes, D. J., Brennan, J., & Dadds, M. R. (2009). Cortisol, callous-unemotional traits, and pathways to antisocial behavior. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 22, 357–362.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Heim, C., Newport, D. J., Mletzko, T., Miller, A. H., & Nemeroff, C. B. (2008). The link between childhood trauma and depression: Insights from HPA axis studies in humans. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 33, 693–710.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Hussong, A. M., Bauer, D. J., Huang, W., Chassin, L., Sher, K. J., & Zucker, R. A. (2008). Characterizing the life stressors of children of alcoholic parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(6), 819.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Ito, T. A., Miller, N., & Pollock, V. E. (1996). Alcohol and aggression: A meta-analysis on the moderating effects of inhibitory cues, triggering events, and self-focused attention. Psychological Bulletin, 120(1), 60–82.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Kallen, V. L., Tulen, J. H. M., Utens, E. M. W. J., Treffers, P. D. A., De Jong, F. H., & Ferdinand, R. F. (2008). Associations between HPA axis functioning and level of anxiety in children and adolescents with an anxiety disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 25, 131–141.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Keller, P. S., Cummings, E. M., Davies, P. T., & Lubke, G. (2007). Children’s behavioral reactions to marital conflict as a function of parents’ conflict behaviors and alcohol problems. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 4, 157–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Keller, P. S., Cummings, E. M., Davies, P. T., & Mitchell, P. (2008). Longitudinal relations between parental drinking problems, family functioning, and child adjustment. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 195–212.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Keller, P. S., El-Sheikh, M., Keiley, M., & Liao, P. J. (2009). Longitudinal relations between marital aggression and alcohol problems. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 23, 2–13.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Keller, P. S., Gilbert, L. R., Koss, K. J., Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. T. (2011). Parental problem drinking, marital aggression, and child emotional insecurity: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 72, 711–722.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Kilbey, M. M., Downey, K., & Breslau, N. (1998). Predicting the emergence and persistence of alcohol dependence in young adults: The role of expectancy and other risk factors. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 6, 149–156.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Kline, R. B. (2011). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  39. Koss, K. J., George, M. R., Davies, P. T., Cicchetti, D., Cummings, E. M., & Sturge-Apple, M. L. (2013). Patterns of children’s adrenocortical reactivity to interparental conflict and associations with child adjustment: A growth mixture modeling approach. Developmental Psychology, 49, 317–326.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Kudielka, B. M., Hellhammer, D. H., & Kirschbaum, C. (2007). Ten years of research with the trier social stress test—revisited. Social Neuroscience: Integrating Biological and Psychological Explanations of Social Behavior, 56–83.Google Scholar
  41. Lovallo, W. R., Farag, N. H., Sorocco, K. H., Cohoon, A. J., & Vincent, A. S. (2012). Lifetime adversity leads to blunted stress axis reactivity: Studies from the Oklahoma family health patterns project. Biological Psychiatry, 71, 344–349.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Lupien, S. J., King, S., Meaney, M. J., & McEwen, B. S. (2000). Child ‘s stress hormone levels correlatie with mother’s socioeconomic status and depressive state. Biological Psychiatry, 48(10), 976–980.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Lupien, S. J., King, S., Meaney, M. J., & McEwen, B. S. (2001). Can poverty get under your skin? Basal cortisol levels and cognitive function in children from low and high socioeconomic status. Development and Psychopathology, 13(3), 653–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McEwen, B. S. (1998). Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. The New England Journal of Medicine, 338, 171–179.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Miller, G. E., Chen, E., & Zhou, E. S. (2007). If it goes up, must it come down? Chronic stress and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis in humans. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 25–45.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Moss, H. B., Vanukov, M. M., & Martin, C. S. (1995). Salivary cortisol responses and the risk for substance abuse in prepubertal boys. Biological Psychiatry, 38, 547–555.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Moss, H. B., Vanukov, M. M., Yao, J. K., & Kirilova, G. P. (1999). Salivary cortisol responses in prepubertal boys: The effects of parental substance abuse and association with drug use behavior during adolescence. Biological Psychiatry, 45, 1293–1299.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Ohannessian, C. M. (2012). Parental problem drinking and adolescent psychosocial adjustment: The mediating role of adolescent–parent communication. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(3), 498–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ohannessian, C. M., & Hesselbrock, V. M. (2004). Do alcohol expectancies moderate the relationship between parental alcoholism and adult drinking behaviors? Addictive Behaviors, 29(5), 901–909.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Ohannessian, C. M., Hesselbrock, V. M., Kramer, J., Kuperman, S., Bucholz, K. K., Schuckit, M. A., & Nurnberger, J. I, Jr. (2004). The relationship between parental alcoholism and adolescent psychopathology: A systematic examination of parental comorbid psychopathology. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32(5), 519–533.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Pelham, W. E., Lang, A. R., Atkeson, B., Murphy, D. A., Gnagy, E. M., Greiner, A. R., et al. (1997). Effects of deviant child behavior on parental distress and alcohol consumption in laboratory interactions. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 25, 413–424.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Petersen, A., Crockett, L., Richards, M., & Boxer, M. P. (1988). A self-report measure of pubertal status: Reliability, validity, and initial norms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 17, 117–133.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Royston, P., Altman, D. G., & Sauerbrei, W. (2006). Dichotomizing continuous predictors in multiple regression: A bad idea. Statistics in Medicine, 25, 127–141.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Saunders, J. B., Asaland, O. G., Babor, T. F., & de la Fuente, J. R. (1993). Development of the alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT): WHO collaborative project on early detection of persons with harmful alcohol consumption: II. Addiction, 86, 791–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sobel, M. E. (1982). Asymptotic confidence intervals for indirect effects in structural equation models. In S. Leinhardt (Ed.), Sociological methodology, 13, 290–312.Google Scholar
  56. Sondeijker, F. E. P. L., Ferdinand, R. F., Oldehinkel, A. J., Veenstra, R., Tiemeier, H., Ormel, J., & Verhulst, F. C. (2007). Disruptive behaviors and HPA-axis activity in young adolescent boys and girls from the general population. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 41, 570–578.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Sorocco, K. H., Lovallo, W. R., Vincent, A. S., & Collins, F. L. (2006). Blunted hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis responsivity to stress in persons with a family history of alcoholism. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 59, 210–217.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Straus, M. A. (1979). Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: The conflict tactics (CT) scales. Journal of Marriage And The Family, 41(1), 75–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sturge-Apple, M. L., Davies, P. T., Cicchetti, D., & Manning, L. G. (2012). Interparental violence, maternal emotional unavailability and children’s cortisol functioning in family contexts. Developmental Psychology, 48(1), 237–249.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Taylor, Z. E., Spinrad, T. L., VanSchyndel, S. K., Eisenberg, N., Huynh, J., Sulik, M. J., & Granger, D. A. (2012). Sociodemographic risk, parenting, and effortful control: Relations to salivary alpha-amylase and cortisol in early childhood. Developmental Psychobiology, 55, 869–890.Google Scholar
  61. Thayer, J. F., Hall, M., Sollers, J. J., & Fischer, J. E. (2006). Alcohol use, urinary control, and heart rate variability in apparently healthy men: Evidence for impaired inhibitory control of the HPA axis in heavy drinkers. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 59, 244–250.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Windle, M. (1997). Parental alcohol experiences scale. Unpublished manuscript. Research Institute on Addictions, Buffalo, NY.Google Scholar
  63. Zapolski, T. C., Pedersen, S. L., McCarthy, D. M., & Smith, G. T. (2013). Less drinking, yet more problems: Understanding African American drinking and related problems.Google Scholar
  64. Zhou, Q., King, K. M., & Chassin, L. (2006). The roles of familial alcoholism and adolescent family harmony in young adults’ substance dependence disorders: Mediated and moderated relations. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115(2), 320–331.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peggy S. Keller
    • 1
  • Douglas A. Granger
    • 2
  • Joanne Tyler
    • 1
  • Lauren R. Gilbert
    • 1
  • Eric A. Haak
    • 1
  • Shuang Bi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Interdisiciplinary Salivary Bioscience ResearchArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations