Developmental Histories of Perceived Racial/Ethnic Discrimination and Diurnal Cortisol Profiles in Adulthood: A 20-year Prospective Study (WP-14-18)
Emma Adam, Jennifer Heissel, Katharine Zeiders, Jennifer Richeson, Emily Ross, Katherine Ehrlich, Dorainne Levy, Margaret Kemeny, Amanda Brodish, Oksana Malanchuk, Stephen Peck, Thomas Fuller-Rowell, and Jacquelynne Eccles
Perceived racial/ethnic discrimination (PRD) has been found to predict alterations in cortisol diurnal rhythms in past research, but most research has focused on current perceptions of discrimination. The researchers investigate whether developmental histories of PRD matter for adult diurnal cortisol profiles. One-hundred and twenty (N=57 black, N=63 white) adults (Mage = 32.36 years; SD = .43) from the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study (MADICS) provided saliva samples at waking, 30 minutes after waking, and at bedtime each day for 7 days. Adult diurnal cortisol measures were predicted from measures of PRD obtained over a 20-year period beginning when youth were in 7th grade (approximately age 12). Specifically, greater average PRD across the 20-year period predicted flatter diurnal cortisol slopes for both black and white participants. For blacks only, greater average PRD predicted lower waking cortisol and lower total cortisol across the day, a profile considered indicative of chronic stress. The effects of PRD on lower average cortisol across the day for blacks were driven by PRD experiences in adolescence. Young adult PRD, however, for blacks only, was associated with a larger cortisol awakening response. The results suggest that although PRD appears to impact cortisol for both blacks and whites, effects are stronger for black participants. In addition, adolescence may serve as a sensitive period for chronic impacts of PRD on adult stress biology.