Integrating the measurement of salivary α-amylase into studies of child health, development, and social relationships

Douglas A. Granger, Katie T. Kivlighan, Clancy Blair, Mona El-Sheikh, Jacquelyn Mize, Jared A. Lisonbee, Joseph A. Buckhalt, Laura R. Stroud, Kathryn Handwerger, Eve B. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


To advance our understanding of how biological and behavioral processes interact to determine risk or resilience, theorists suggest that social developmental models will need to include multiple measurements of stress-related biological processes. Identified in the early 1990s as a surrogate marker of the sympathetic nervous system component of the stress response, salivary-amylase has not been employed to test biosocial models of stress vulnerability in the context of child development until now. In this report, we describe a standard assay that behavioral scientists can use to improve the next generation of studies and specific recommendations about sample collection, preparation, and storage are presented. More importantly, four studies are presented with mother-infant dyads (N= 86), preschoolers (N= 54), children (N = 54), and adolescents (N = 29) to illustrate individual differences in stress-related change in -amylase levels, that patterns of -amylase stress reactivity distinctly differ from those measured by salivary cortisol, and associations between individual differences in -amylase and social relationships, health, negative affectivity, cognitive/academic/behavior problems, and cardiovascular reactivity. We conclude that the integration of measurements of the adrenergic component of the locus ceruleus/autonomic (sympathetic) nervous system, as indexed by salivary -amylase, into the study of biosocial relationships may extend our understanding of child health and development to new limits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-290
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Biosocial relationships
  • Child development
  • Cortisol
  • Salivary alpha-amylase
  • Salivary biomarkers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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