The aim of the study was to assess whether the association between chronic family stress and physiological measures is moderated by emotion regulation strategies in an adolescent sample.
Chronic family stress was assessed via a semistructured interview and emotion regulation strategies (cognitive reappraisal and suppression) via questionnaire among 261 adolescents (14.57 (1.07) years). Several metabolic (waist-hip ratio, systolic and diastolic blood pressure) and inflammatory markers (basal and stimulated proinflammatory cytokine production in response to bacterial challenge) as well as glucocorticoid sensitivity were assessed.
There were no main effects of chronic family stress, cognitive reappraisal, or suppression on physiological measures (all p's > .10). Emotion regulation moderated the association between chronic family stress and physiological measures. As chronic family stress increased, adolescents higher in cognitive reappraisal had smaller waist-hip ratios (B = −.003, SE = .001, p = .015) and lower systolic blood pressure (B = −.303, SE = .143, p = .035), although no moderation was found with respect to inflammatory markers and glucocorticoid sensitivity (all p's > .30). In addition, as chronic family stress increased, adolescents higher in suppression showed evidence of higher stimulated proinflammatory cytokine production (B = .046, SE = .020, p = .021) and lower glucocorticoid sensitivity (B = .051, SE = .021, p = .015), although basal inflammation and metabolic measures were not moderated by suppression (all p's > .50).
This study suggests that the types of emotion regulation strategies used by adolescents may affect the extent to which chronic family stress affects important metabolic and immune processes.