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Infant Behav Dev. 2008 Jan;31(1):51-61. Epub 2007 Jul 23.

Hormonal sensitivity of preterm versus full-term infants to the effects of maternal depression.

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1
Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA. bugental@psych.ucsb.edu

Abstract

Comparisons were made of differences in the hormonal sensitivity of preterm versus full-term infants to maternal depression, as reflected in children's cortisol levels. In Study 1 (N=25), a comparison was made between preterm versus healthy full-term children. In Study 2 (N=80), a comparison was made between preterm infants and full-term infants with mild or moderate medical problems. Preterm infants were found to be highly reactive to maternal depression (as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory). That is, they demonstrated higher cortisol levels when paired with depressed mothers and lower cortisol levels when paired with non-depressed mothers. No equivalent effects were found for children who were full-term, even when they had experienced other medical problems at birth. It was concluded that premature infants are exceptionally sensitive to the "emotional climate" in their home environment. As a result, they may manifest very different hormonal outcomes--with implications for their later development.

PMID:
17645947
PMCID:
PMC2233848
DOI:
10.1016/j.infbeh.2007.06.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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