Examining the Influence of Perceived Stress on Developmental Change in Memory and Perceptual Speed for Adopted and Nonadopted Individuals

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The present study prospectively evaluated cumulative early life perceived stress in relation to differential change in memory and perceptual speed from middle childhood to early adulthood. We aimed to identify periods of cognitive development susceptible to the effects of perceived stress among both adopted and nonadopted individuals. The sample consisted of participants in the Colorado Adoption Project (CAP, N = 690). Structured latent growth curves were fit to 4 memory outcomes as well as 1 perceptual speed outcome, which described nonlinear change between ages 9 and 30. Both adoption status and cumulative perceived stress indices served as predictors of the latent curves. The perceived stress indices were constructed from the Brooks-Gunn Life Events Scale for Adolescents, and reflected “upsettingness” ratings associated with the occurrence of particular life events during middle childhood (ages 9 to 12) and adolescence (ages 13 to 16). For memory and perceptual speed, cumulative perceived stress did not predict differential cognitive gains. However, differences in perceptual speed trajectories between nonadopted and adopted individuals were observed, with adopted individuals showing smaller gains. Although these findings provide no evidence that emergent variability in memory and perceptual speed trajectories by age 30 are explained by cumulative perceptions of stress in childhood and adolescence, further investigations regarding potential vulnerability across the life span are warranted.

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