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date: 12 December 2018

Summary and Keywords

Everyday salivary cortisol is a popular biomarker that is uniquely suited to address key lifespan developmental questions. Specifically, it can be used to shed light on the time-varying situational characteristics that elicit acute stress responses as individuals navigate their everyday lives across the adult lifespan (intraindividual variability). It is also well suited to identify more stable personal characteristics that shape the way that individuals appraise and approach the stressors they encounter across different life phases (interindividual differences). And it is a useful tool to disentangle the mechanisms governing the complex interplay between situational and person-level processes involving multiple systems (gain-loss dynamics). Applications of this biomarker in areas of functioning that are core to lifespan developmental research include emotional experiences, social contextual factors, and cognition. Methodological considerations need to involve careful thought regarding sampling frames, potential confounding variables, and data screening procedures that are tailored to the research question at hand.

Keywords: biomarkers, cortisol, lifespan psychology, stress, aging, ambulatory assessments, diary methods

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