Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 43, Issue 7, pp 1066–1079 | Cite as

Exposure to Violence Predicting Cortisol Response During Adolescence and Early Adulthood: Understanding Moderating Factors

  • Sophie M. AiyerEmail author
  • Justin E. Heinze
  • Alison L. Miller
  • Sarah A. Stoddard
  • Marc A. Zimmerman
Empirical Research


Previous research on the association between violence and biological stress regulation has been largely cross-sectional, and has also focused on childhood. Using longitudinal data from a low-income, high-risk, predominantly African-American sample (n = 266; 57 % female), we tested hypotheses about the influence of cumulative exposure to violence during adolescence and early adulthood on cortisol responses in early adulthood. We found that cumulative exposure to violence predicted an attenuated cortisol response. Further, we tested whether sex, mothers’ support, or fathers’ support moderated the effect of exposure to violence on cortisol responses. We found that the effect of cumulative exposure to violence on cortisol was modified by sex; specifically, males exposed to violence exhibited a more attenuated response pattern. In addition, the effect of cumulative exposure to violence on cortisol was moderated by the presence of fathers’ support during adolescence. The findings contribute to a better understanding of how cumulative exposure to violence influences biological outcomes, emphasizing the need to understand sex and parental support as moderators of risk.


Contextual stressors Violence exposure Stress response Cortisol Adolescence 



This research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Grant Number DA007484. The research reported here does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The research reported here was also supported by the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center, Cooperative Agreement Number 5U01CE001957-02 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Michigan Injury Center, Grant Number 1R49CE002099. The research reported here does not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Finally, the authors would like to acknowledge Benjamin Zimmerman, who provided research assistance on the project.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Authors’ contributions

SMA conceived of, designed, and coordinated the study. SMA also drafted the manuscript and contributed to the statistical analyses and interpretation of the data. JEH assisted with the conception and design of the study, performed the statistical analysis, and assisted with interpretation of the data. JEH also assisted with revising the manuscript. ALM assisted with the study design and also helped with drafting the manuscript. SAS and MAZ contributed to the conception of the study and reviewed the manuscript. Finally, all authors read and approved of the final manuscript. The authors on the manuscript have agreed to the byline order and to submission of the manuscript in this form.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophie M. Aiyer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Justin E. Heinze
    • 1
  • Alison L. Miller
    • 1
  • Sarah A. Stoddard
    • 1
  • Marc A. Zimmerman
    • 1
  1. 1.Health Behavior Health EducationUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA

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