Children and adolescents suffer various degrees of social anxiety. Fear and avoidance of social situations in childhood is associated with negative developmental outcomes such as depression, anxiety and school refusal. Studies with adults suggest that individual differences in social anxiety may be accompanied by heightened physiological responses to social stress, threat, and challenge. Developmental science has championed salivary cortisol to operationalize individual differences in the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Recently, studies have shown salivary alpha amylase (sAA), a surrogate marker of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity, to have similar utility in studies of biosocial processes, particularly those related to stress and anxiety. Specifically, increased cortisol levels in response to social stress and fear has been well-documented, and heightened sAA has been related to both generalized social anxiety disorder and fear. While few studies have examined the relationship between social anxiety and stress physiology in childhood and adolescence, studies exploring HPA and ANS responses to social/evaluative stressors in children and adolescents suggest a relationship may exist.
The relationship between social anxiety and stress physiology (i.e., sAA and cortisol) in a sample of healthy children and adolescents undergoing a series of non-social/evaluative stressors. No existing work has yet explored sAA and cortisol responses to a laboratory pain stressor; although based on prior research, we hypothesized that (1) both sAA and cortisol levels would be elevated in response to the laboratory tasks however, children with self-reported higher levels of social anxiety will show an elevated sAA response as compared to those with self-reported low social anxiety, reflecting the possibility that sAA will capture individual differences in the stress response.
Relationship of Salivary Alpha Amylase and Cortisol to Social Anxiety in Healthy Children Undergoing Laboratory Pain Tasks
Laura A Payne
Last date updated on June, 2014