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Infant Behav Dev. 2006 Jan;29(1):70-9. Epub 2005 Oct 26.

Maternal soothing and infant stress responses: soothing, crying and adrenocortical activity during inoculation.

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Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, University of Bergen, P.O. Box 7800, 5020 Bergen, Norway.


The relation between maternal soothing and infant stress response during inoculation was examined in a sample of 37 mothers and their 3-month-old infants. The mothers' soothing and the infants' cry vocalizations and the mothers' and the infants' salivary cortisol level pre- and post-injection were analysed. There was a positive relation between infants' cry vocalization post-injection and maternal soothing pre- and post-injection. The sample was divided in two sub-groups depending on whether the mothers evidenced most soothing of the infants in the period before (Preparatory group; n=20) or after (Contingent group; n=17) the syringe injection. In the Preparatory group, the duration of infant cry vocalizations was related to amount of maternal soothing before and after the injection, while cry vocalizations in the Contingent group was related to amount of maternal soothing after the injection. The Contingent infants responded to the injection with a significant increase in cortisol, while there was no increase in the Preparatory infants. The Preparatory infants evidenced significantly longer duration of looking at the target stimuli in a visual marking task, suggesting greater difficulties in disengaging attention. These findings indicate that 3-month-olds' stress responses and their mothers' situational behaviour are mutually regulated.

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