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Study clarifies link between cortisol levels and problem behavior

Category: Hormones and Metabolism

Cortisol testing may help parents explain the problem behavior of their children, as a new study from a team of Concordia University researchers has found that abnormal levels of the stress hormone are closely tied to behavioral problems in adolescents.

In particular, the study helps clear up the so-called "cortisol paradox." Previous studies have shown that both abnormally high and low levels of the hormone are associated with problem behavior, which has perplexed researchers. In the current study, researchers found that cortisol levels are not simply linked to bad behavior. They are also connected to the length of time children exhibit problems.

The study showed that cortisol levels are abnormally high around the time that an adolescent first begins showing signs of problem behavior. However, they appear to drop dangerously low when the child has presented bad behavior for an extended period of time.

The researchers said that problem behavior is often the result of external stress, and that high cortisol levels are likely a symptom, rather than a cause. They said that parents of children who receive high cortisol tests or who exhibit poor behavior should seek therapy to get at the root cause of their problems.

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