Coping and empowerment preventive intervention buffers early adolescent neuroendocrine-related risk for internalizing problems

Chelsea O. Mayo, Jason José Bendezú, Martha E. Wadsworth

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There is an absence of mechanism-driven interventions equipped to reduce the large mental health disparities that exist for preadolescent youth living in poverty. Building a Strong Identity and Coping Skills (BaSICS) is a preventive intervention designed to target multiple aspects of poverty-related stress adaptation, including altered neuroendocrine function. The purpose of the current study was to examine whether pre-post shifts in preadolescent hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activation could longitudinally predict internalizing outcomes and to determine whether BaSICS could buffer such HPA-related risk for psychopathology. Low-income youth (n = 112) ages 11–12 years were randomized to the 16-session intervention or assessment-only control (53% intervention; 54% female; 40% Hispanic, 63% Black, 20% White). Youth completed questionnaires and the Trier Social Stress Test, and provided cortisol via saliva at six timepoints during the 90-minute assessment. Adjusting for pre-intervention Cortisol Area Under the Curve–Ground (CAUCg) scores and internalizing problems, post-intervention CAUCg and intervention main and interactive effects were modeled as predictors of internalizing outcomes across post-intervention, 6-month, and 12-month follow-up assessments using multilevel regression methods. A significant post-intervention CAUCg by intervention interaction emerged (B=1.198, SE=0.433, p = .006). For control youth, baseline-adjusted decreases in cortisol output were associated with increases in internalizing problems that remained stably elevated across follow-up assessments. For BaSICS youth, however, internalizing problems decreased and remained stably low following program delivery, irrespective of post-intervention increases or decreases in cortisol output. Findings illustrate how BaSICS may buffer against HPA-related risk for internalizing psychopathology and provide support for interventions targeting biological mechanisms of risk for low-income preadolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108802
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - May 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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