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Tracy Vaillancourt, Eric Duku, Suzanna Becker, Louis A Schmidt, Jeffrey Nicol, Cameron Muir, and Harriet MacMillan (2011)

Peer victimization, depressive symptoms, and high salivary cortisol predict poorer memory in children

Brain and Cognition, 77:191-199.

The predictive relations of peer victimization, depressive symptoms, and salivary cortisol on memory in 168 children aged 12 at Time 1 (T1) were examined using a longitudinal design in which data were collected on four occasions over a 2-year period. Results indicated that: (1) peer victimization, depressive symptoms, and evening cortisol were stable over time, (2) peer victimization and elevated symptoms of depression were concurrently linked at each time, (3) T1 peer victimization predicted elevated symptoms of depression at T2 which in turn predicted lower cortisol levels at T3, and (4) controlling for earlier associations, T3 peer victimization, depressive symptoms, and higher morning and evening cortisol levels uniquely predicted memory deficits at T4. The links between elevated cortisol, symptoms of depression, and poor memory are consistent with published research on depressed adults and extend the findings to children exposed to peer victimization. These findings highlight that peer abuse is harmful and may impact children’s long-term mental health and memory functioning.

memory, children, depression, cortisol