Behavioral Problems Linked to Cortisol Levels: Study Finds Intervention Needed as Soon as Behavioral Problems Appear
Feb. 10, 2011 — Cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, seems to behave in contradictory ways in children. Some youngsters with behavioral problems have abnormally high levels of cortisol, while others with identical problems have abnormally low levels. What’s going on?
Researchers at Concordia University and the Centre for Research in Human Development may have resolved the cortisol paradox. In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, they link cortisol levels not simply to behavior problems, but to the length of time individuals have experienced behavior problems.
“We studied the relationship between cortisol levels in young people with problematic behaviour such as aggression or depression, and the length of time since the onset of these behaviours,” explains Paula Ruttle, lead author and PhD candidate at Concordia’s Department of Psychology. “Cortisol levels were abnormally high around the time problem behaviours began, but abnormally low when they had been present for a long time.”