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Concurrent and prospective associations between family socioeconomic status, social support and salivary diurnal and hair cortisol in adolescence

BackgroundExposure to socioeconomic adversity is hypothesized to impact hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activity and cortisol secretion, but existing evidence is inconsistent. Yet, few studies have investigated this association using a developmental approach that considers potential protective contextual factors. This study examined the role of stability and changes in family socioeconomic status (SES) in the prediction of multiple cortisol indicators and tested whether social support moderated these associations.MethodsParticipants were part of a population‐based sample of twin pairs recruited at birth. Family SES was assessed in early childhood (ages 0–5) and mid‐adolescence (age 14). Social support was assessed at ages 14 and 19. Diurnal cortisol (n = 569) was measured at age 14 at awakening, 30 min later, in the afternoon and evening over four non‐consecutive days. Hair cortisol concentration (HCC, n = 704) was measured at age 19. All data were collected before the pandemic and multilevel regression models were conducted to account for the nested data structure.ResultsYouth exposed to lower family SES levels in childhood and mid‐adolescence had a flatter diurnal slope and higher HCC compared with those who experienced upward socioeconomic mobility in mid‐adolescence. Contrastingly, mid‐adolescence SES showed no association with the diurnal slope or HCC for youth from higher‐SES households in early childhood. Moreover, youth raised in higher‐SES families in early childhood had a higher CAR in mid‐adolescence if they reported greater social support in mid‐adolescence. Social support also moderated the SES‐cortisol association in mid‐adolescence, with higher‐SES youth showing higher awakening cortisol secretion when reporting more social support.ConclusionsOur findings support the hypothesis that early socioeconomic adversity sensitizes HPA axis activity to later socioeconomic disadvantage, which may bear consequences for socioemotional and behavioral functioning.

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Kindergarten conduct problems are associated with monetized outcomes in adolescence and adulthood

Across several sites in the United States, we examined whether kindergarten conduct problems among mostly population-representative samples of children were associated with increased criminal and related (criminal + lost offender productivity + victim; described as criminal + victim hereafter) costs across adolescence and adulthood, as well as government and medical services costs in adulthood. Participants (N = 1,339) were from two multisite longitudinal studies: Fast Track (n = 754) and the Child Development Project (n = 585). Parents and teachers reported on kindergarten conduct problems, administrative and national database records yielded indexes of criminal offending, and participants self-reported their government and medical service use. Outcomes were assigned costs, and significant associations were adjusted for inflation to determine USD 2020 costs. A 1SD increase in kindergarten conduct problems was associated with a $21,934 increase in adolescent criminal + victim costs, a $63,998 increase in adult criminal + victim costs, a $12,753 increase in medical services costs, and a $146,279 increase in total costs. In the male sample, a 1SD increase in kindergarten conduct problems was associated with a $28,530 increase in adolescent criminal + victim costs, a $58,872 increase in adult criminal + victim costs, and a $144,140 increase in total costs. In the female sample, a 1SD increase in kindergarten conduct problems was associated with a $15,481 increase in adolescent criminal + victim costs, a $62,916 increase in adult criminal + victim costs, a $24,105 increase in medical services costs, and a $144,823 increase in total costs. This investigation provides evidence of the long-term costs associated with early-starting conduct problems, which is important information that can be used by policymakers to support research and programs investing in a strong start for children.

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Evaluating a treatment selection approach for online <scp>single‐session</scp> interventions for adolescent depression

The question 'what works for whom' is essential to mental health research, as matching individuals to the treatment best suited to their needs has the potential to maximize the effectiveness of existing approaches. Digitally administered single-session interventions (SSIs) are effective means of reducing depressive symptoms in adolescence, with potential for rapid, large-scale implementation. However, little is known about which SSIs work best for different adolescents. We created and tested a treatment selection algorithm for use with two SSIs targeting depression in high-symptom adolescents from across the United States. Using data from a large-scale RCT comparing two evidence-based SSIs (N = 996; ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT04634903), we utilized a Personalized Advantage Index approach to create and evaluate a treatment-matching algorithm for these interventions. The two interventions were Project Personality (PP; N = 482), an intervention teaching that traits and symptoms are malleable (a 'growth mindset'), and the Action Brings Change Project (ABC; N = 514), a behavioral activation intervention. Results indicated no significant difference in 3-month depression outcomes between participants assigned to their matched intervention and those assigned to their nonmatched intervention. The relationship between predicted response to intervention (RTI) and observed RTI was weak for both interventions (r = .39 for PP, r = .24 for ABC). Moreover, the correlation between a participants' predicted RTI for PP and their predicted RTI for ABC was very high (r = .79). The utility of treatment selection approaches for SSIs targeting adolescent depression appears limited. Results suggest that both (a) predicting RTI for SSIs is relatively challenging, and (b) the factors that predict RTI for SSIs are similar regardless of the content of the intervention. Given their overall effectiveness and their low-intensity, low-cost nature, increasing youths' access to both digital SSIs may carry more public health utility than additional treatment-matching efforts.

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The interrelatedness of cognitive abilities in very preterm and full‐term born children at 5.5 years of age: a psychometric network analysis approach

Very preterm (VP) birth is associated with a considerable risk for cognitive impairment, putting children at a disadvantage in academic and everyday life. Despite lower cognitive ability on the group level, there are large individual differences among VP born children. Contemporary theories define intelligence as a network of reciprocally connected cognitive abilities. Therefore, intelligence was studied as a network of interrelated abilities to provide insight into interindividual differences. We described and compared the network of cognitive abilities, including strength of interrelations between and the relative importance of abilities, of VP and full-term (FT) born children and VP children with below-average and average-high intelligence at 5.5 years. A total of 2,253 VP children from the EPIPAGE-2 cohort and 578 FT controls who participated in the 5.5-year-follow-up were eligible for inclusion. The WPPSI-IV was used to measure verbal comprehension, visuospatial abilities, fluid reasoning, working memory, and processing speed. Psychometric network analysis was applied to analyse the data. Cognitive abilities were densely and positively interconnected in all networks, but the strength of connections differed between networks. The cognitive network of VP children was more strongly interconnected than that of FT children. Furthermore, VP children with below average IQ had a more strongly connected network than VP children with average-high IQ. Contrary to our expectations, working memory had the least central role in all networks. In line with the ability differentiation hypothesis, children with higher levels of cognitive ability had a less interconnected and more specialised cognitive structure. Composite intelligence scores may therefore mask domain-specific deficits, particularly in children at risk for cognitive impairments (e.g., VP born children), even when general intelligence is unimpaired. In children with strongly and densely connected networks, domain-specific deficits may have a larger overall impact, resulting in lower intelligence levels.

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Enhanced late positive potential to conditioned threat cue during delayed extinction in anxious youth

Deficits in threat learning relate to anxiety symptoms. Since several anxiety disorders arise in adolescence, impaired adolescent threat learning could contribute to adolescent changes in risk for anxiety. This study compared threat learning among anxious and non-anxious youth using self-reports, peripheral psychophysiology measures, and event-related potentials. Because exposure therapy, the first-line treatment for anxiety disorders, is largely based on principles of extinction learning, the study also examined the link between extinction learning and treatment outcomes among anxious youth. Clinically anxious (n = 28) and non-anxious (n = 33) youth completed differential threat acquisition and immediate extinction. They returned to the lab a week later to complete a threat generalization test and a delayed extinction task. Following these two experimental visits, anxious youth received exposure therapy for 12 weeks. Anxious as compared to non-anxious youth demonstrated elevated cognitive and physiological responses across acquisition and immediate extinction learning, as well as greater threat generalization. In addition, anxious youth showed enhanced late positive potential response to the conditioned threat cue compared to the safety cue during delayed extinction. Finally, aberrant neural response during delayed extinction was associated with poorer treatment outcomes. The study emphasizes differences between anxious and non-anxious youth in threat learning processes and provides preliminary support for a link between neural processing during delayed extinction and exposure-based treatment outcome in pediatric anxiety.

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Mediation of 6‐year mid‐childhood follow‐up outcomes after pre‐school social communication (PACT) therapy for autistic children: randomised controlled trial

There are very few mechanistic studies of the long-term impact of psychosocial interventions in childhood. The parent-mediated Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy (PACT) RCT showed sustained effects on autistic child outcomes from pre-school to mid-childhood. We investigated the mechanism by which the PACT intervention achieved these effects. Of 152 children randomised to receive PACT or treatment as usual between 2 and 5 years of age, 121 (79.6%) were followed 5-6 years after the endpoint at a mean age of 10.5 years. Assessors, blind to the intervention group, measured Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale Calibrated Severity Score (ADOS CSS) for child autistic behaviours and Teacher Vineland (TVABS) for adaptive behaviour in school. Hypothesised mediators were child communication initiations with caregivers in a standard play observation (Dyadic Communication Measure for Autism, DCMA). Hypothesised moderators of mediation were baseline child non-verbal age equivalent scores (AE), communication and symbolic development (CSBS) and 'insistence on sameness' (IS). Structural equation modelling was used in a repeated measures mediation design. Good model fits were obtained. The treatment effect on child dyadic initiation with the caregiver was sustained through the follow-up period. Increased child initiation at treatment midpoint mediated the majority (73%) of the treatment effect on follow-up ADOS CSS. A combination of partial mediation from midpoint child initiations and the direct effect of treatment also contributed to a near-significant total effect on follow-up TVABS. No moderation of this mediation was found for AE, CSBS or IS. Early sustained increase in an autistic child's communication initiation with their caregiver is largely responsible for the long-term effects from PACT therapy on autistic and adaptive behaviour outcomes. This supports the theoretical logic model of PACT therapy but also illuminates fundamental causal processes of social and adaptive development in autism over time: early social engagement in autism can be improved and this can have long-term generalised outcome effects.

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The impact of <scp>COVID</scp>‐19 on psychiatric clinical encounters among low‐income racially‐diverse children

There is a lack of longitudinal data to examine the impact of COVID-19 on all types of clinical encounters among United States, underrepresented BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), children. This study aims to examine the changes in all the outpatient clinical encounters during the pandemic compared to the baseline, with particular attention to psychiatric encounters and diagnoses. This study analyzed 3-year (January 2019 to December 2021) longitudinal clinical encounter data from 3,394 children in the Boston Birth Cohort, a US urban, predominantly low-income, Black and Hispanic children. Outcomes of interest were completed outpatient clinical encounters and their modalities (telemedicine vs. in person), including psychiatric care and diagnoses, primary care, emergency department (ED), and developmental and behavioral pediatrics (DBP). The study children's mean (SD) age is 13.9 (4.0) years. Compared to 2019, psychiatric encounters increased by 38% in 2020, most notably for diagnoses of adjustment disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). In contrast, primary care encounters decreased by 33%, ED encounters decreased by 55%, and DBP care decreased by 16% in 2020. Telemedicine was utilized the most for psychiatric and DBP encounters and the least for primary care encounters in 2020. A remarkable change in 2021 was the return of primary care encounters to the 2019 level, but psychiatric encounters fluctuated with spikes in COVID-19 case numbers. Among this sample of US BIPOC children, compared to the 2019 baseline, psychiatric encounters increased by 38% during 2020, most notably for the new diagnoses of adjustment disorder, depression, and PTSD. The 2021 data showed a full recovery of primary care encounters to the baseline level but psychiatric encounters remained sensitive to the pandemic spikes. The long-term impact of the pandemic on children's mental health warrants further investigation.

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Is age of onset and duration of stimulant therapy for ADHD associated with cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulant misuse?

To assess whether age of onset and duration of stimulant therapy for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are associated with cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulant misuse during adolescence. Nationally representative samples of US 10th and 12th grade students (N = 150,395) from the Monitoring the Future study were surveyed via self-administered questionnaires from 16 annual surveys (2005-2020). An estimated 8.2% of youth received stimulant therapy for ADHD during their lifetime (n = 10,937). More than one in 10 of all youth reported past-year prescription stimulant misuse (10.4%)-past-year cocaine (4.4%) and methamphetamine (2.0%) use were less prevalent. Youth who initiated early stimulant therapy for ADHD (≤9 years old) and for long duration (≥6 years) did not have significantly increased adjusted odds of cocaine or methamphetamine use relative to population controls (ie, non-ADHD and unmedicated ADHD youth). Youth who initiated late stimulant therapy for ADHD (≥10 years old) and for short duration (<1 year) had significantly higher odds of past-year cocaine or prescription stimulant misuse in adolescence than those initiating early stimulant therapy for ADHD (≤9 years old) and for long duration (≥6 years). Youth who initiated late stimulant therapy for ADHD (≥10 years) for short duration (<1 year) had significantly higher odds of past-year cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulant misuse versus population controls during adolescence. No differences in past-year cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulant misuse were found between individuals who only used non-stimulant therapy for ADHD relative to youth who initiated early stimulant therapy (≤9 years old) and for long duration (≥6 years). An inverse relationship was found between years of stimulant therapy and illicit and prescription stimulant misuse. Adolescents with later initiation and/or shorter duration of stimulant treatment for ADHD should be monitored for potential illicit and prescription stimulant misuse.

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