This research examined whether variations in salivary measures of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (cortisol) and autonomic nervous system (alpha amylase [sAA]) contribute to individual differences in the association between peer victimization and aggression. Children (N∈=∈132; M age∈=∈9.46 years, SD∈=∈0.33) completed a measure of peer victimization, teachers rated children's aggression, and children's saliva was collected prior to, and following, participation in a laboratory-based peer-oriented social challenge task. Children rated their level of frustration at the end of the task. Results revealed that victimization interacted with cortisol and sAA measured in anticipation of the task to predict aggression; the victimization × cortisol contribution to aggression was partly mediated by children's self-reported frustration level. Victimization also was associated with heightened frustration in girls with high task-related sAA reactivity. Task-related sAA reactivity was associated with heightened aggression, but only for girls. These findings suggest that associations between peer victimization and aggression are moderated by variation in the activity of the major components of the psychobiology of stress; results are discussed in relation to theoretical models of individual differences in biological sensitivity to context.
- Peer victimization
- Salivary alpha amylase
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health