The present study evaluated the independent and cumulative effects of recent life stress, previous trauma, and recent trauma exposure on salivary cortisol levels among school-aged children. Sixty-eight children (mean age . 10.7 years) reported their exposure to life stressors and traumatic events in the 12 months preceding the study. Children and their caregivers reported frequency of exposure to trauma earlier in life. Exposure to life stress within the past 12 months was related to higher afternoon cortisol levels. Exposure to high levels of recent trauma in combination with frequent exposure to trauma earlier in life was related to both lower morning cortisol levels and higher afternoon cortisol levels. Results suggest that frequency, duration, and severity of exposure to stress and trauma played key roles in the prediction of basal cortisol levels in a community sample of urban youth.
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