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The influence of attachment on perceived stress and cortisol response to acute stress in women sexually abused in childhood or adolescence


Pierrehumbert, B; Torrisi, R; Glatz, N; Dimitrova, N; Heinrichs, M; Halfon, O (2009). The influence of attachment on perceived stress and cortisol response to acute stress in women sexually abused in childhood or adolescence. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34(6):924-938.

Abstract

The long-term implications of sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence (CSA) have been relatively well documented regarding attachment (disorganized attachment in childhood, unresolved trauma in adulthood), stress reactions (altered patterns of stress reactivity under experimental conditions), and psychopathology. Attachment has been shown to mediate the implications of CSA, namely on psychopathology. The implication of attachment on stress responses of abused persons has not been documented. Twenty-seven 20-46 years old women who had experienced episodes of CSA, and 17 controls have been interviewed using the Adult Attachment Interview. Sixty-three percent of abused women presented an unresolved trauma (12% for the controls). Thirty-six women (14 controls and 22 abused) came again to the laboratory for a session involving an experimental stress challenge (TSST). Subjects provided repeated appreciations of perceived stress on visual analogue scales and saliva samples were collected to assay cortisol levels. Whereas abused women with unresolved trauma showed the highest levels of perceived stress, they simultaneously presented the most suppressed cortisol reactions (there were significant post hoc differences between "unresolved abused" and controls on the increase of perceived stress and on cortisol recovery after the acute stress). It is suggested that important stressful experiences (such as CSA), especially when they have not been psychologically assimilated, may cause a disconnection, during subsequent mildly stressful circumstances, between the perception of stress and natural defensive body reactions.

Abstract

The long-term implications of sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence (CSA) have been relatively well documented regarding attachment (disorganized attachment in childhood, unresolved trauma in adulthood), stress reactions (altered patterns of stress reactivity under experimental conditions), and psychopathology. Attachment has been shown to mediate the implications of CSA, namely on psychopathology. The implication of attachment on stress responses of abused persons has not been documented. Twenty-seven 20-46 years old women who had experienced episodes of CSA, and 17 controls have been interviewed using the Adult Attachment Interview. Sixty-three percent of abused women presented an unresolved trauma (12% for the controls). Thirty-six women (14 controls and 22 abused) came again to the laboratory for a session involving an experimental stress challenge (TSST). Subjects provided repeated appreciations of perceived stress on visual analogue scales and saliva samples were collected to assay cortisol levels. Whereas abused women with unresolved trauma showed the highest levels of perceived stress, they simultaneously presented the most suppressed cortisol reactions (there were significant post hoc differences between "unresolved abused" and controls on the increase of perceived stress and on cortisol recovery after the acute stress). It is suggested that important stressful experiences (such as CSA), especially when they have not been psychologically assimilated, may cause a disconnection, during subsequent mildly stressful circumstances, between the perception of stress and natural defensive body reactions.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:July 2009
Deposited On:27 Jan 2010 12:56
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:38
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0306-4530
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.01.006
Related URLs:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TBX-4VKMWC3-1&_user=5294990&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000049009&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=5294990&md5=943f6b1fe236ae8d3e88b392df680505
PubMed ID:19217212

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