Coupling of the HPA and HPG axes in the context of early life adversity in incarcerated male adolescents

Andrew R. Dismukes, Megan M. Johnson, Michael J. Vitacco, Florencia Iturri, Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The effects of early life adversity can be observed across the lifespan, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axes could be mechanistic intermediaries underlying this phenomenon. The current study examined 50 adolescent males aged 12-18 in a maximum-security correctional and treatment setting. Saliva samples were collected five times a day for 2 days and assayed for cortisol, testosterone, and DHEA. Youth completed semi-structured life stress interviews and self-reports of child maltreatment to index adversity. When youth had higher testosterone levels, they had higher cortisol and DHEA levels, indicating positive "coupling" of the HPA-HPG axes. In addition, children experiencing greater life adversity had tighter coupling of the HPA-HPG axes. Additional analyses hint that coupling may be driven largely by HPG axis functioning. Results indicate that positive coupling of the HPA-HPG axis is observed within incarcerated adolescents, especially for those with the greatest life stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-718
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Adolescence
  • Cortisol
  • DHEA
  • Dual-axis
  • HLM
  • HPA
  • HPG
  • Stress
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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