Research on the physiological adaptation process has found that stress is associated with the rate of cortisol secretion, the main hormone that reflects stress. However, considerable variation among subjects has been reported. Using a sample of older adults (N=46), we tested the hypothesis that cortisol reactivity is composed of (1) a situation-related component representing hypothalamic influence on cortisol secretion observed on three different occasions, and (2) a stable component representing a general trait responsible for cortisol responses observed from occasion to occasion. LISREL VIII was used to test this hypothesis. Results indicated that a homogeneous reliability model was not supported by the data. A congeneric measurement model represented a better fit to the data. Results suggest that subjects have consistent patterns of response during separate experimental occasions. However, results do not suggest a consistent pattern of response over time. The main implication of these results is that salivary cortisol measures are sensitive to experimental stress situations. As such, this noninvasive method may be useful in examining adaptive responses to stress.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/michael_smyer/50/