University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Dr. Barbara White, UNH Department of Occupational Therapy
Implications of Stress on Children's Cognitive Performance on the Tower of Hanoi Task in Children from Low and Middle Income Groups
This research hypothesizes that children with evidence of chronic stress will show poorer performances on a problem-solving task. Evidence from a number of studies, including animal models and human children suggests that chronic stress can impact key brain structures responsible for cognitive and executive function skills. Sources of stress in children are found in from environmental stressors such as those found in low-socioeconomic families and neighborhoods, as well a interpersonal attachments with parents. Moreover, research indicates that parental support plays a critical role in monitoring children’s stress response from all sources as well as shape cognitive development. This study hopes to investigate the relationship between stress and child’s (ages 11-13) performance on a cognitive task, called the Tower of Hanoi. Children’s stress levels are examined through a (1) perceived-stress-scale survey, (2) health survey, and (3) a collection of their saliva sample to measure for cortisol changes pre- and post the cognitive task, and one day diurnal saliva sample. A parent-child relationship survey was also given to parents to examine if there are correlations with child’s reported stress and stress hormones.