Does background stress heighten or dampen children's cardiovascular responses to acute stress?
To address this question, the cardiovascular responses to four acute laboratory stressors of 150 children and adolescents were evaluated according to their self-reported background stress level. Background stress was determined during a standardized interview and was a priori classified according to its importance, frequency, and whether it was ongoing or resolved.
Results showed that children and adolescents who reported important stressors or stressors that were ongoing and frequent exhibited a larger increase in diastolic blood pressure and total peripheral resistance during all four laboratory stressors than their low stress counterparts. Additional analysis showed that the results could not be accounted for by sociodemographic variables or by the personality traits measured in this study.
Results suggest the importance of measuring background stress in understanding an individual's acute stress response.