College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 11-20-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Kathryn E. Grant, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jocelyn Carter, Ph.D.


Salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) has been established as a bio-marker of stress reactivity in acute stressor tasks. Much less research exists exploring whether sAA is bio-marker for chronic stress exposure, and therefore, allostatic load. Extant research is inconsistent with some evidence to support chronic stress exposure having an impact on sAA reactivity and diurnal levels of sAA, while other studies have failed to support this theory. Social support is regarded as a protective factor against stress, mental health, and physical health consequences. It has been suggested that gender may play a role in the utilization and benefits of social support networks. The aim of this study was to add to existing research in finding support for sAA reactivity as a bio indicator of exposure to chronic stress in adolescents, and further ascertain whether social support, in the form of family cohesion, moderated those effects. Additionally, this study aimed to explore whether gender would further moderate the moderation of family cohesion on the relationship between chronic stress and sAA. A sample of 130 public school children in 6th to 12th grade participated in an acute stressor task, during which saliva samples were taken using the passive drool method. sAA was measured from the saliva samples for reactivity during the task. The participants completed the Family Relationship Scale (FRS) questionnaire to assess for family cohesion and participated in a semi-structure Life Stress Interview to be coded by reliable raters for chronic stress scores. The present study did not find significant results for chronic stress as a predictor of sAA reactivity. The role of family cohesion and gender as moderators could not be explored due to lack of a significant relationship between chronic stress and sAA.

SLP Collection