Development and Psychopathology


Maternal responsiveness moderates the relationship between allostatic load and working memory

Stacey N. Doana1 c1 and Gary W. Evansa2

a1 Boston University

a2 Cornell University


A substantial amount of research has demonstrated the deleterious effects of chronic stress on memory. However, much less is known about protective factors. In the current study we test the role of maternal responsiveness in buffering the effects of childhood allostatic load on subsequent adolescent working memory. Allostatic load is a marker of cumulative stress on the body that is caused by mobilization of multiple physiological systems in response to chronic environmental demands. Results of the study suggest that allostatic load negatively affects working memory, but that this effect is significantly attenuated in children with responsive mothers.

(Online publication July 15 2011)


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Stacey N. Doan, Department of Psychology, Boston University, 64 Cummington Street, Boston, MA 02215; E-mail:


We are grateful to the families who participated throughout this research. We thank Jana Cooperman, Kim English, Missy Globerman, Matt Kleinman, Rebecca Kurland, Melissa Medoway, Tina Merilees, Chanelle Richardson, Adam Rohksar, and Amy Schreier for their assistance with data collection. Pilyoung Kim and Anthony Ong provided constructive feedback on earlier drafts. This work was supported by the W. T. Grant Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health.