Socioeconomic Status, Subjective Social Status, and Perceived Stress: Associations with Stress Physiology and Executive Functioning

Alexandra Ursache, Kimberly G. Noble, Clancy Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Several studies have investigated associations between socioeconomic status (SES) and indicators of children's physiological and cognitive self-regulation. Although objective measures of family SES may be good proxies for families' experiences of disadvantage, less is known about subjective aspects of families' experiences. We hypothesize that subjective social status (SSS) and perceived stress may be important independent predictors of children's stress physiology and executive functioning (EF). Eighty-two children from diverse SES backgrounds were administered EF measures and provided saliva samples for cortisol assay. Caregivers reported on objective SES, SSS, and perceived stress. Results suggest that SES and SSS are both independently and positively related to EF. In models predicting stress physiology, higher perceived stress was associated with lower baseline cortisol. Moreover, SES and age interacted to predict cortisol levels such that among younger children, lower SES was associated with higher cortisol, whereas among older children, lower SES was associated with lower cortisol. Results highlight the importance of considering both objective and subjective indicators of families' SES and stressful experiences in relation to multiple aspects of children's self-regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-154
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2015



  • cortisol
  • executive function
  • perceived stress
  • socioeconomic status
  • subjective social status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology

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