Acculturation, childhood trauma and the cortisol awakening response in Mexican-American adults

Deborah Mangold, Gary Wand, Martin Javors, James Mintz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Exposure to chronic and traumatic stress has been associated with the dysregulation of crucial stress response systems. Acculturation has been associated with unique forms of chronic psychosocial stress. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of exposure to early traumatic stress and acculturation on dysregulation of the cortisol awakening response (CAR) in Mexican-American adults. Salivary cortisol samples were collected at awakening and 30, 45, and 60. min thereafter, on two consecutive weekdays from 59 healthy Mexican-American adult males (26) and females (33), ages 18-38. years. Participants were assessed for level of acculturation and exposure to early trauma. Data were analyzed using a mixed effects regression model with repeated measures at four time points. Mixed effects regression results indicated a significant Early Trauma × Time interaction (p=.0029) and a significant Acculturation × Time interaction (p=.0015), after controlling for age and sex. Subsequent analyses of the interaction of Trauma × Acculturation × Time showed that more than minimal exposure to either risk factor was associated with attenuation of the awakening cortisol response (p=.0002). Higher levels of acculturation with greater Anglo-orientation were associated with attenuation of the CAR in Mexican-American adults. Both moderate and higher levels of exposure to early trauma were associated with an attenuated CAR. However, greater exposure to both risk factors was only incrementally worse than exposure to either one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-646
Number of pages10
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Acculturation
  • Childhood trauma
  • Cortisol
  • HPA axis
  • Mexican-Americans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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