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A Modified Trier Social Stress Test for Vulnerable Mexican American Adolescents.

  • Author(s): Johnson, Megan M
  • Deardorff, Julianna
  • Parra, Kimberly
  • Alkon, Abbey
  • Eskenazi, Brenda
  • Shirtcliff, Elizabeth
  • et al.

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The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) is a well validated and widely used social stressor that has been shown to induce a 2-4 fold increase in cortisol, the biological output produced by the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis in humans. While studies have explored how modifications to the TSST influence stress responsivity, few studies have created a modified TSST appropriate for vulnerable youth that elicits a significant cortisol stress response. Thus, the current study sought to modify or adjust the TSST in a culturally sensitive way for a vulnerable sample of 14 year-old adolescents. The present study took place within the context of a longitudinal birth cohort study of Mexican American families in California called the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS). The CHAMACOS sample was optimal to test the effectiveness of a modified culturally appropriate TSST, as it is comprised of Mexican American youth, who are often excluded from research. These youths also have experienced significant early life adversity. Example modifications included timed prompts, alternative math tasks, use of same-ethnicity peers as confederates, debriefing immediately after the conclusion of the TSST, and using an unknown youth examiner to administer the debrief. Saliva samples were collected at baseline (after a resting phase), and then again at 15, 30, and 45 min post-TSST onset to assess cortisol concentration. A pilot study of 50 participants (50% female) have been analyzed for cortisol reaction to the TSST. Results confirmed that this modified version of the TSST was successful at eliciting a significant cortisol reaction, with a wide range of variability likely due to individual differences. Goals for modifications and ethnicity considerations are discussed. This study provides the foundation for future research to utilize a modified TSST with vulnerable youth.

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