Evidence for discrete profiles of children’s physiological activity across three neurobiological system and their transitions over time

Danielle S. Roubinov, William T. Boyce, Matthew R. Lee, Nicole R. Bush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The conceptualization of stress-responsive physiological systems as operating in an integrated manner is evident in several theoretical models of cross-system functioning. However, limited empirical research has modeled the complexity of multisystem activity. Moreover few studies have explored developmentally regulated changes in multisystem activity during early childhood when plasticity is particularly pronounced. The current study used latent profile analysis (LPA) to evaluate multisystem activity during fall and spring of children's transition to kindergarten in three biological systems: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Latent transition analysis (LTA) was then used to examine the stability of profile classification across time. Across both timepoints, three distinct profiles of multisystem activity emerged. One profile was characterized by heightened HPA axis activity (HPA Axis Responders), a second profile was characterized by moderate, typically adaptive patterns across the PNS, SNS, and HPA axis (Active Copers/Mobilizers), and a third profile was characterized by heightened baseline activity, particularly in the PNS and SNS (Anticipatory Arousal/ANS Responders). LTA of fall-to-spring profile classifications indicated higher probabilities that children remained in the same profile over time compared to probabilities of profile changes, suggesting stability in certain patterns of cross-system responsivity. Patterns of profile stability and change were associated with socioemotional outcomes at the end of the school year. Findings highlight the utility of LPA and LTA to detect meaningful patterns of complex multisystem physiological activity across three systems and their associations with early adjustment during an important developmental transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12989
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • autonomic nervous system
  • developmental psychobiology
  • hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis
  • latent profile analysis
  • latent transition analysis

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Evidence for discrete profiles of children’s physiological activity across three neurobiological system and their transitions over time'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this