Cortisol Measurement in Developmental Research: Where Do We Go From Here?

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Salivary cortisol has been measured extensively in developmental research over the last three decades. The purpose of this article is to summarize the contributions to and limitations of salivary cortisol measurement in developmental research and propose future directions for research that includes salivary cortisol measurement. The properties of cortisol, the history of its burgeoning popularity, and the utility and limitations of (a) cortisol as a biological indicator, (b) saliva as a source of cortisol, and (c) various saliva collection methodologies are described. The current state of understanding about what is and is not reliably predictable from cortisol is summarized and the value of salivary cortisol measurement in developmental research is discussed, addressing whether methodology could be driving research design. Recommendations are made for streamlining study design and reporting within developmental research.