Sexual orientation moderates the association between parental overprotection and stress biomarker profiles

Stephanie H. Cook, Jens C. Pruessner, Sonia J. Lupien, Robert Paul Juster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Early experiences with parents may be particularly difficult for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals who face stigma that is linked to potentially distinct stress-related biobehavioural profiles. This study examined the association between parental bonding in relation to acute stress (cortisol reactivity) and chronic stress (allostatic load) in LGB and heterosexual individuals. The sample consisted of 87 healthy adults (mean [SD] age = 24.6 [0.6] years; LGB: n = 46, 43% women; and heterosexual n = 41, 49% women). Regressions tested the main effects of retrospectively assessed parental overprotection and care before the age of 16 on stress reactive cortisol (area under the curve) and allostatic load (indexed using 21 neuroendocrine, immune, metabolic and cardiovascular biomarkers), and whether sexual orientation status moderated this association. Results revealed that parental overprotection was associated with increased cortisol reactivity only for LGB participants, but not for heterosexual participants. By contrast, parental overprotection was associated with higher allostatic load only for heterosexual participants, but not for LGB participants. While the functional significance of this requires further study, these preliminary findings suggest that adaptive processes among LGB individuals may mitigate the negative effects of parental overprotection on markers of chronic stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-220
Number of pages17
JournalPsychology and Sexuality
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018


  • Parental bonding
  • allostatic load
  • cortisol reactivity
  • sexual minority stress
  • sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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