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Front Psychiatry. 2011 May 31;2:31. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00031. eCollection 2011.

Cocaine Exposure and Children's Self-Regulation: Indirect Association via Maternal Harshness.

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  • 1Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo, State University of New York Buffalo, NY, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

This study examined the association between prenatal cocaine exposure and children's self-regulation at 3 years of child age. In addition to direct effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on children's self-regulation, we hypothesized there would be indirect associations between cocaine exposure and self-regulation via higher maternal harshness and poor autonomic regulation in infancy.

METHODS:

The sample consisted of 216 mother-infant dyads recruited at delivery from local area hospitals (116 cocaine-exposed, 100 non-exposed). Infant autonomic regulation was measured at 7 months of age during an anger/frustration task, maternal harshness was coded from observations of mother-toddler interactions at 2 years of age, and children's self-regulation was measured at 3 years of age using several laboratory paradigms.

RESULTS:

Contrary to hypotheses, there were no direct associations between maternal cocaine use during pregnancy and children's self-regulation. However, results from testing our conceptual model including the indirect effects via maternal harshness or infant parasympathetic regulation indicated that this model fit the data well, χ(2) (23) = 34.36, p > 0.05, Comparative Fit Index = 0.95, RMSEA = 0.05. Cocaine using mothers displayed higher intensity of harshness toward their toddlers during lab interactions across a variety of tasks at 2 years of age (β = 0.23, p < 0.05), and higher intensity of harshness at 2 years was predictive of lower self-regulation at 3 years (β = -0.36, p < 0.01). Maternal cocaine use was also predictive of a non-adaptive increase in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) from baseline to the negative affect task, but RSA change in infancy was not predictive of self-regulation at 3 years.

CONCLUSION:

RESULTS are supportive of animal models indicating higher aggression among cocaine treated dams, and indicate that higher maternal harshness among cocaine using mothers is predictive of child self-regulatory outcomes in the preschool period.

KEYWORDS:

autonomic regulation; cocaine exposure; maternal harshness; self-regulation

PMID:
21716637
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC3115536
Free PMC Article

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