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    The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis had been proved to calibrate to early-life adversity and puberty may reverse the calibration. This study examines the consequences of prolonged parent-child separation on HPA axis reactivity and the pubertal recalibration hypothesis. Totally of 144 participants aged 8.75 to 15.25 (mean age 12.50 years, SD: 1.32) were enrolled from rural areas of Chizhou city, Anhui Province of China in 2019. Data on parent-child separation was collected from parents. Self-reported Peterson Pubertal Development Scale was used to assess pubertal maturation and HPA axis stress reactivity was measured using the Trier Social Stress Test for Children. For children at early stage of puberty, childhood parent-child separation experiences were associated with blunted HPA axis reactivity (B = -1.888, p = 0.034); while for those at later stage of puberty, HPA axis reactivity was similar between children experienced early childhood separation and those without separation (AUCi: B = -0.426, p = 0.878). In contrast, for children experienced persistent parent-child separation, blunted HPA axis reactivity was observed (all p < 0.05). Due to the cross-sectional nature of this study, conclusions about causality remain speculative. The effect of parent-child separation on dysregulation of HPA axis acts in a time-dependent manner. This finding provides support for the pubertal recalibration hypothesis suggesting that a focus of improving environment in adolescence would help those individuals reared initially in non-supportive conditions. Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.


    Dan-Dan Zhang, Jiao Fang, Lei Zhang, Jing-Yi Yuan, Yu-Hui Wan, Pu-Yu Su, Fang-Biao Tao, Ying Sun. Pubertal recalibration of cortisol reactivity following early life parent-child separation. Journal of affective disorders. 2021 Jan 01;278:320-326

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    PMID: 32979563

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