New Study Tests Adaptive Calibration Model of Stress Sensitivity

The Adaptive Calibration Model (ACM) is a new concept relating to stress development. The ACM differs from other theories regarding stress sensitivity in that it approaches stress reactivity from three key angles; evolutionary, adaptive, and responsive. Specifically, the ACM integrates risk factors such as depression or anxiety, environmental stressors such as family conflict, violence or aggression, and individual responsiveness to stress. The current model suggests that all of these components influence the development of stress in an individual. However, this model has not been tested thoroughly.

To further validate the ACM, Marco Del Giudice of the Department of Psychology at the University of Turin in Italy recently led a study that evaluated stress in 256 children ranging from 8 to 10 years old. Del Giudice predicted that his results would expand the three categories of stress responsiveness to four, including unemotional, vigilant, buffered, and sensitive. After analyzing the results, Del Giudice made some interesting discoveries. First, in line with his prediction, the participants responded in unique ways that justified the addition of a fourth category of responsiveness with more girls than boys falling into the vigilant category. However, in direct contrast to his prediction, the sensitive class was represented by more boys than girls.

The findings also revealed marked differences in how specific factors influenced stress. Del Giudice found that environmental factors such as maternal depression, socioeconomic difficulties, or family substance use did not have a direct impact on stress but family conflict did. This finding underscores the significance of healthy family relationships on mental well-being. Del Giudice noted that although ecological conditions affected the participants’ stress only minimally, the sample used in this study was highly concentrated with high-risk children, which could account for the ecological findings. Del Giudice also believes that the young age of the participants in this study limits the findings. He recommends future studies include children from broader socioeconomic conditions and adolescents of varied ages in order to accurately assess the role of each factor, including gender and age, on the development of stress. Del Giudice added, “The present investigation offers a preliminary test of the model and highlights some of the methodological challenges that will need to be considered in future research on this topic.”

Del Giudice, M., Ellis, B. J., Hinnant, J. B., El-Sheikh, M. (2012). Adaptive patterns of stress responsivity: A preliminary investigation. Developmental Psychology 48.3, 775-790.

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  • Merle t

    Merle t

    July 3rd, 2012 at 4:04 AM

    sounds like this is a more holistic approach to making a diagnosis that is complete and comprehensive

  • Paulie


    July 3rd, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    If you are raised in ahome where there is a lot of familial conflict, that can really wreck any chance for having a normal childhood. These kids witness parents arguing, never resolving issues thorugh any other methods than screaming and in many cases violence. This is their life and for many of them it causes them to choose this same exact path for themselves when they are older and begin developing relationships of their own. There is never any time when they feel safe from that kind of madness because it surrounds them at every step they take along the way.

  • rene carola

    rene carola

    July 3rd, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    I don’t get why the other models for measuring stress in one’s life would not have also taken into account all of these 3 factors that can so heavily influence our lives and the way that react when we are placed in certain situations. For me it is easy to see how your genes and the living environment that you have been raised in make you who you are. One doesn’t necessarily outweigh the other in terms of importance. They all work together to make you this complete person, good or bad. Typically someone thinks that they can pinpoint the exact cause of stress and this is the one thing that they try to either eliminate from their lives or work on. But what we have to do instead is find out why this one thing effects us the way it does and work it from that angle instead. This model gives us a much better chance of understanding what is really going on with ourselves beneath the surface and gives us a roadmap for improvemebt one step at a time.

  • Jeremy Taylor

    Jeremy Taylor

    July 3rd, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    its all good that we’re finding out what things have what effect on stress and how they effect a wil help a lot in treatments and identification.but would stemming the actual causes be a much better option?like promoting these same things in the community so that people protect themselves and their children from things mentioned here to keep stress at bay(?)

  • kelly


    July 5th, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    exposing kids to family conflicts and violence is a definite no-no.this is almost inevitable in some homes where the social and economic standards are not can lead to complications such as stress and whatnot.then it gets carried into their adult lives which can prevent them from achieving academically,professionally and therefore economically.

    then the same things happen to their kids.its a vicious cycle and certainly needs breaking.the earlier the better.

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