Infant Stress Reactivity: Associations With Exposures to Perinatal Depressive Symptoms and Prenatal Cortisol Open Access

McCallum, Meaghan (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/mk61rh11z?locale=en
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Abstract

Recent findings have revealed associations between perinatal depressive symptoms and cortisol in mothers and infant stress reactivity. The current study improved upon previous work by including multiple assessments of maternal depressive symptoms and cortisol in order to parse out the relative contributions of pre- versus post- natal depressive symptoms in women with increased risk for a perinatal depressive episode. The trajectory of depressive symptoms across both the pre- and postnatal periods and maternal sensitivity, rated at 3, 6, and 12 months, were also examined in relation to infants' behavioral and cortisol reactivity. At 12 months, mother-infant dyads (n=71) completed a laboratory visit where infant cortisol reactivity was measured in response to the Strange Situation. Infant behavioral reactivity was rated during two stressful interactions with mothers, one mild (mothers filling out paperwork while face- to-face with the infants) and one moderate (mothers turning around and ignoring the infant). Results indicated that infant cortisol was associated with the trajectory of maternal depressive symptoms, such that infants exposed to high levels of prenatal depressive symptoms and low levels of postnatal symptoms exhibited higher cortisol (both the initial sampling and the overall level) in comparison to infants exposed to high depressive symptoms during both the pre- and postnatal periods. This finding lends support to the fetal programming hypothesis, whereby infant cortisol reactivity may be dysregulated when the fetal expectancy of postnatal environment is not met. In addition, results indicated that sensitive parenting may buffer the adverse effects of perinatal depression. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction......................................................................1

  2. Methods..........................................................................19

  3. Results...........................................................................33

  4. Discussion.......................................................................44

  5. Conclusion......................................................................52

  6. References.......................................................................53

  7. Appendix A.....................................................................76

  8. Appendix B......................................................................77

  9. Figures and Tables.............................................................87

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