Sarah E. Watamura
Assistant Professor, Developmental and DCN
I am interested in how young children manage normative stress and challenge, and in what consequences stress and challenge have for their health and for their developing cognitive and social-emotional systems. Although we think of childhood as a relatively stress-free time of life, young children face challenges in every developmental domain simultaneously, and individual differences as well as contextual effects may be important for how they handle these challenges, behaviorally and physiologically.
My research has three main areas. First, I contribute work on the normative development of systems for managing stress and challenge, in particular the development of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis through examining the development of cortisol patterning across the first few years of life. Cortisol is the primary hormonal product of the HPA axis, and has many important functions in the body, including helping to manage sustained challenge. I examine the development of cortisol patterning in relation to factors like sleep-wake behavior and temperament. Second, I examine cortisol patterning in the context of full-day child care, which has been documented to produce low level patterning differences in relation to home patterns. This context therefore presents an opportunity to examine how children manage normative challenge, and to explore which factors are associated with challenge and which factors may be protective. Third, I examine the consequences of cortisol reactivity for health, including concurrent antibody production, internalizing disorders, and markers of allostatic load. Recent work focuses specifically on the stressors and buffers that may be unique to children of recent immigrants.
Hankin, B. L., Badanes, L. S., Abuela, Watamura, S. E. (in press). Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis dysregulation in dysphoric children and adolescents: Cortisol reactivity to psychosocial stress from preschool through middle adolescence. Biological Psychiatry.
Watamura, S. E., Phillips, D., Morrissey, T., McCartney, K., & Bub, K. (in press). �Double Jeopardy�: Environmental interactions and cumulative effects predict poorer social emotional outcomes for children in the NICHD study of early child care and youth development. Child Development, Special Issue on Raising Healthy Children.
Watamura, S. E., Coe, C. L., Laudenslager, M. L., & Robertson, S. S. (in press). Effect of child care on salivary cortisol, sIgA, and specific antibody secretion in young children. Psychoneuroendocrinology.
Watamura, S. E., Kryzer, E. M., & Robertson, S.S. (2009). Cortisol patterns at home and child care: Afternoon differences and evening recovery in children attending very high quality full-day center-based child care. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30(4) 475-485.
Friedman, A. H., Watamura, S. E., & Robertson, S. S. (2005). Movement-Attention Coupling in Infancy and Attention Problems in Childhood. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 47, 660-665.
Watamura, S. E., Donzella, B., Kertes, D., & Gunnar, M. R. (2004). Developmental changes in baseline cortisol activity in early childhood: Relations with napping and effortful control. Developmental Psychobiology, 45(3), 125-133.
Watamura, S. E., Donzella, B., Alwin, J., & Gunnar, M. R.(2003). Morning to afternoon increases in cortisol concentrations for infants and toddlers at child care: Age differences and behavioral correlates. Child Development, 74(4), 1006-1020.
Watamura, S. E., Sebanc, A. M., & Gunnar, M. R. (2002). Rising cortisol at childcare: Relations with nap, rest and temperament. Developmental Psychobiology, 40, 33-42.
Dettling, A. C., Parker, S. W., Lane, S., Sebanc, A., & Gunnar, M. R. (2000). Quality of care and temperament determine changes in cortisol concentrations over the day for young children in childcare. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 25, 819-836.
Sarah E. Watamura
Developmental and DCN
Child Health & Development Lab
Stress Research Network