TitleClassroom Emotional Support predicts differences in preschool children's cortisol and alpha-amylase levels
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHatfield, BE, Hestenes, LL, Kintner-Duffy, VL, O’Brien, M
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Pagination347 - 356
Date Published4/2013

Accumulating evidence suggests children enrolled in full-time child care often display afternoon elevations of the hormone cortisol, which is an indicator of stress. Recent advances in immunoassays allow for measurement of activity in the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and the autonomic sympathetic nervous system from saliva, and measurement of both systems provides a more complete understanding of activity in the stress response system. This study is the first to examine both cortisol and alpha-amylase in children attending child care and focuses on the influences of specific indicators of classroom process quality. A diverse sample of 63 preschool children nested in 14 classrooms of varying quality participated in this study; child salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase were collected at six times over 2 days. Results indicate that children in classrooms with higher Emotional Support displayed a greater decline in cortisol from morning to afternoon. Further, children in classrooms with higher Emotional Support exhibited lower total alpha-amylase output while attending child care. Implications for professional development for early childhood teachers and measurement of classroom quality are discussed.