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date: 22 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

It is now well established that early experiences of adversity play a central role in development of many mental health problems in adulthood. However, the effects are more pronounced and detrimental for some individuals compared to others. Informed by the biological sensitivity to context model, an evolutionary-developmental model of individual differences in stress responsivity, the present chapter highlights the role of stress response system as one moderating mechanism in the pathway between early life experiences and development of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. The model posits that the magnitude and integrated patterns of autonomic and adrenocortical responses to psychosocial challenges are indicators of the organisms’ level of susceptibility to both positive and negative environmental influences. The final part of the chapter focuses on the role of early life experiences in programming the functioning of stress response systems, development of adaptive stress responsivity patterns, and related behavioral profiles.

Keywords: biological sensitivity to context, adaptive calibration model, differential susceptibility, developmental programming, biological embedding, conditional adaptation, early adversity, HPA axis, autonomic nervous system, stress reactivity

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