Cortisol Reactivity and Observed Parenting among Mothers of Children with and without ADHD
Thomas, Sharon Renee
MetadataShow full item record
Parenting is a robust predictor of developmental outcomes among children with ADHD. Early parenting predicts the persistence and course of ADHD and comorbid problems above and beyond risk associated with shared genetic effects. Yet, on average, mothers of children with ADHD are less positive and more negative in their parent-child interactions compared to mothers of non-disordered children. Little is known about psychobiological markers which may be associated with individual variations in maternal parenting in families of children with ADHD. Neurobiological models of parenting suggest that maternal cortisol levels following a stressor may be positively associated with hostile and intrusive parenting; however, to date no studies have examined maternal cortisol reactivity and parenting in school-age, or clinical samples of, children. Mothers’ regulation of physiological stress responses may be particularly important for families of children with ADHD, as parenting a child with chronically challenging behaviors represents a persistent environmental stressor. The current study sought to extend the existing literature by providing an empirical examination of the relationship between maternal cortisol reactivity following two laboratory stressors and parenting among mothers of children with and without ADHD. It was hypothesized that child ADHD group would moderate the relationship between cortisol reactivity and self-reported and observed parenting. Greater total cortisol output and greater increase in cortisol during the TSST were associated with decreased positive parenting and increased negative and directive parenting, with the exception of parental involvement, which was associated with increased cortisol output during the TSST. Conversely, cortisol output during the PCI was associated with increased positive parenting, increased parental involvement, and decreased negative parenting. In contrast to the TSST, a greater decrease in cortisol during the PCI indicated more positive parenting and parental involvement. These associations were specific to mothers of children with ADHD, with the exception of maternal directiveness, which was specific to comparison mothers. Findings add to our understanding of physiological processes associated with maternal parenting and contribute to an integrative biological, psychological, and cognitive process model of parenting in families of children with ADHD.