Dich, Nadya and Stacey N. Doan. “Moderate Emotional Reactions to Stressful Life Events are Associated with Lowest Risk of Increased Alcohol Consumption: Evidence from the Whitehall II Study.” European Journal of Public Health, vol. 29, issue 4, 2019, pp. 754-758.
Background: Research investigating the associations between stress-related negative emotions and alcohol consumption often assumes a linear dose-response relationship. Based on the current theories of emotions, we questioned this assumption and hypothesized that both very low and very high levels of negative emotional response (NER) to stressful life events are related to increased alcohol consumption. Methods: We used data from Phases 1 (1985-88) and 2 (1989-90) of the British Whitehall II study. At both phases, participants reported on their alcohol consumption, recent stressful events and the NER to the events. Two thousand and sixteen participants without recent stressful events at baseline were selected. Logistic regression was used to model the association between emotional response at baseline and increased frequency of alcohol consumption between the two phases. Results: The likelihood of increased alcohol consumption increased with the number of recent stressful events. Among participants with at least one event, 17% increased alcohol consumption, compared with 14% of those who reported no events. Participants with average NER were at lowest risk (14%) of increasing alcohol consumption after major life events. Those with highest NER were significantly more likely to increase alcohol consumption (20%) than those with average NER, but the difference between those with highest NER and those with lowest NER (17%) was not statistically significant. Conclusions: Increases in alcohol consumption following stressful events are least likely if people experience moderate levels of NER to events. Negative emotions in moderate doses should not be regarded as a risk factor for unhealthy behaviours, but rather a potentially protective factor.
Doan, Stacey N., Nadya Dich, Thomas E. Fuller-Rowell, and Gary W. Evans. “Externalizing Behaviors Buffer the Effects of Early Life Adversity on Physiologic Dysregulation.” Scientific Reports, vol. 9, 2019, 13623.
Abstract: The present study examined the counterintuitive hypothesis that externalizing behaviors such as aggression, although in many respects detrimental, may be functional and protect against the detrimental health consequences of early life adversity. In particular, in line with evolutionary models of development, we argue that externalizing problems moderate the association between chronic stress exposure and allostatic load, a biological marker of chronic physiological dysregulation. Prospective interactive effects of externalizing behaviors and cumulative risk (a confluence of multiple risk factors) on children’s allostatic load were assessed in 260 children (46% female, baseline age = 9). Exposure to early life adversity was assessed at baseline using a cumulative risk index. Externalizing behaviors were reported by parents at baseline. Allostatic load was measured at baseline and at ages 13 and 17, using endocrine, cardiovascular and metabolic parameters. Results of linear-mixed effects models indicated that the association between cumulative risk and allostatic load was attenuated for adolescents who scored high on externalizing behaviors. Further examination of sex differences indicated that the findings were more pronounced among males than females.
Doan, Stacey N., Helen Y. Lee, and Qi Wang. “Maternal Mental State Language is Associated with Trajectories of Chinese Immigrant Children’s Emotion Situation Knowledge.” International Journal of Behavioral Development, vol. 43, issue 1, 2019, pp. 43-52.
Abstract: We investigated the role of mothers’ references to mental states and behaviors and children’s emotion situation knowledge (ESK) in a prospective, cross-cultural context. European American mothers (n = 71) and Chinese immigrant mothers (n = 60) and their children participated in the study. Maternal references to mental states and behaviors were assessed at Time 1 when children were three years of age. ESK was assessed when children were 3, 3.5, and 4.5 years of age. Multi-group latent growth curve analyses were used to model children’s growth in ESK over time, as well as relations between mental state language and references to behaviors on children’s trajectories. Results indicated that maternal references to mental states were associated with concurrent levels of ESK for European American children, and change over time for the Chinese immigrant children. Maternal references to behaviors were negatively associated with concurrent ESK for both groups.
Doan, Stacey N., Ana K. Marcelo, and Tuppett M. Yates. “Ethnic-Racial Discrimination, Family Ethnic Socialization and Latinx Children’s Emotional Competence.” Culture and Brain, vol. 7, issue 2, 2019, pp. 190-211.
Abstract: Emotion competence is vital for success in a wide range of domains. Although a large body of research has demonstrated that universal socialization processes, such as parenting, influence children’s emotion competence, few studies have identified risk and protective factors that may also contribute to the development of emotion competence, particularly among children of Latin descent. This study evaluated hypothesized negative relations between Latinx children’s perceived experiences of ethnic-racial discrimination (ERD) and later emotion competence as indexed by children’s emotion knowledge and coping skills. Further, we explored both direct and interactive effects of family ethnic-racial socialization (FES) on Latinx children’s emotion competence in the wake of ERD. Latinx children (N = 100, 44% female) reported on their perceived experiences of ERD at age 7 and parents reported on FES at age 8. Emotion competence was assessed at age 8 using a laboratory assessment of the child’s emotion recognition and labeling skills to index emotion knowledge. Parents reported on children’s positive and maladaptive coping. Latinx children’s perceived experiences of ERD were related to lower levels of emotion knowledge and higher levels of maladaptive coping 1 year later. FES was also associated with higher levels of positive coping. Importantly, FES moderated the effect of ERD on children’s maladaptive coping, but not on children’s emotion knowledge or positive coping. The relation between ERD and maladaptive coping was significant at high FES levels, but not at low FES levels. These findings document the incidence and negative impact of young, Latinx children’s experiences of ERD on their emotion competence and highlight the influence of FES on Latinx children’s emotional development in contexts of ERD.
Liu, Cindy H. and Stacey N. Doan. “Innovations in Biological Assessments of Chronic Stress Through Hair and Nail Cortisol: Conceptual, Developmental, and Methodological Issues.” Developmental Psychobiology, vol. 61, issue 3, 2019, pp. 465-476.
Abstract: Much of the existing research on biological mechanisms underlying the stress experience has focused largely on moment‐to‐moment stress, rather than on chronic stress, an arguably more powerful predictor of long‐term outcomes. Recent methodological innovations have paved the way for new lines of research on chronic stress, with promising implications for developmental researchers and for those who study health and adversity. In particular, there are increasing studies that have focused on chronic stress assessments by relying on cortisol derived from hair and nails as a biomarker for chronic stress. In this paper, we provide an overview of their use, describe how hair and nail cortisol ought to be conceptualized differently across the lifespan, how developmental factors may impact its interpretation, and the circumstances under which its use may be more methodologically sensible. The purpose of this review is to provoke further discussion and encourage careful research designs that utilize hair and nail cortisol for understanding the effects of chronic stress exposure from the early developmental period, across adverse contexts, and in association with psychological and physical health outcomes.
Song, Qingfang, Yang Yang, Stacey N. Doan, and Qi Wang. “Savoring or Dampening? Maternal Reactions to Children’s Positive Emotions in Cultural Contexts.” Culture and Brain, vol. 7, issue 2, 2019, pp. 172-189.
Abstract: This study examined in cultural contexts maternal reactions to children’s positive emotions and the relations to children’s socio-emotional outcomes. European American (EA) and Chinese immigrant (CI) mothers reported their reactions to children’s (N = 117, M = 7.14 years) positive emotions. Children were interviewed for emotion knowledge and mothers rated children’s psychological adjustment. CI mothers reported to use emotion dampening reactions more than did EA mothers. Whereas maternal savoring reactions were associated with better adaptive adjustment across cultures, maternal dampening reactions were negatively associated with children’s emotion knowledge at marginal significance for EA but not for CI children. The findings shed critical light on the functional meaning of parental emotion socialization practices for shaping developmental outcomes in specific cultural contexts.
Wang, Qi, Jessie Bee Kim Koh, Diana Santacrose, Qingfang Song, J. Zoe Klemfuss, and Stacey N. Doan. “Child-Centered Memory Conversations Facilitate Children’s Episodic Thinking.” Cognitive Development, vol. 51, 2019, pp. 58-66.
Abstract: Episodic thinking is involved in the representation of specific personal events occurring at a particular time and place. Although a fundamental human cognitive faculty directly associated with neurocognitive functioning, episodic thinking and its development is subject to sociocultural experiences. This study integrated experimental and longitudinal approaches to test the effect of training mothers to have child-centered memory conversations – the type of conversations frequently observed in Western families – on children’s episodic thinking. Six-year-old Chinese and European American children (N = 103) were pretested and randomly assigned to a maternal training or control condition. In the following 6 months, mothers were encouraged to share memories with their children, and those in the training condition were further asked to focus the conversation on their children’s thoughts, desires, and feelings. One year after the completion of training, children of training group mothers represented past and future events in greater episodic detail than those of control group mothers. These findings provide critical experimental evidence for the development of episodic thinking as a sociocultural process.
External Grant: NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Development. “Children's Academic Competence in Contexts of Risk: Longitudinal Relations with Sleep and Physical health in Adolescence.” R03 HD097623, 2019, $167,169.
Abstract: In the U.S., nearly 1 in 5 children grows up in poverty. Although poverty and its associated risks predict a broad range of negative outcomes, many children evidence resilience - apparent competence despite adversity. This body of work has led to the development and implementation of intervention programs to promote resilience among adversity-exposed youth. Unfortunately, recent evidence suggests that children's efforts to mobilize competent adaptation in contexts of adversity may exact later physical health costs, as indicated by biological markers of chronic physiological stress and cellular aging. However, extant studies of putative "costs of coping" have focused primarily on African American samples, with little consideration of moderating or mediating mechanisms. The proposed study will address these gaps by evaluating relations among children's academic competence and physical health problems as function of poverty-related risk exposure in a large and diverse community sample that has been followed from the preschool period into adolescence. Further, we will evaluate supportive parenting and ethnic/racial identity as potential protective factors that may mitigate these health costs, and adolescents' sleep dysregulation as a putative mediator of these negative effects. This research will capitalize on the added value of seven existing waves of multilevel, multimethod, multi-informant assessments of competence, adversity, and adaptation in a sample of 250 diverse child-caregiver dyads (50% female; 46% Hispanic/Latino; 37.6% poverty) at ages 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 12 with outstanding retention (95.6% have returned for follow-ups). Extending to include a new assessment of sleep and health at age 14, this study will provide an unprecedented opportunity to 1) evaluate relations among academic competence, poverty-related risk exposure, and adolescent physical health in diverse ethnic/racial groups, particularly Latinx youth, 2) elucidate protective factors that reduce the health costs of academic resilience, and 3) test sleep dysregulation as a mediating mechanism in the pathway from resilience to health problems. Spanning a decade of development from ages 4-14, this study will address NICHD's high priority areas to understand contextual factors that impact adaptive behavior, as well as the psychosocial adjustment of individuals in high-risk contexts. Moreover, we focus on adolescence as a period of major developmental reorganization that is characterized by increased vulnerability to dysregulated sleep and health problems, as well as untapped opportunity for intervention and amelioration. Expected findings will evaluate the scope and generalizability of resilience costs, while illuminating pathways by which interventions may target modifiable protective and mediating mechanisms to reduce these costs and promote positive development for all youth.