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Dev Psychobiol. 2009 Dec;51(8):625-37. doi: 10.1002/dev.20397.

Maternal prenatal anxiety, postnatal caregiving and infants' cortisol responses to the still-face procedure.

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Department of Psychology Centre for Emotional Health Macquarie University North Ryde New South Wales 2109, Australia.


This study prospectively examined the separate and combined influences of maternal prenatal anxiety disorder and postnatal caregiving sensitivity on infants' salivary cortisol responses to the still-face procedure. Effects were assessed by measuring infant salivary cortisol upon arrival at the laboratory, and at 15-, 25-, and 40-min following the still-face procedure. Maternal symptoms of anxiety during the last 6 months of pregnancy were assessed using clinical diagnostic interview. Data analyses using linear mixed models were based on 88 women and their 7-month-old infants. Prenatal anxiety and maternal sensitivity emerged as independent, additive moderators of infant cortisol reactivity, F (3, 180) = 3.29, p = .02, F (3, 179) = 2.68, p = .05 respectively. Results were independent of maternal prenatal depression symptoms, and postnatal symptoms of anxiety and depression. Infants' stress-induced cortisol secretion patterns appear to relate not only to exposure to maternal prenatal anxiety, but also to maternal caregiving sensitivity, irrespective of prenatal psychological state.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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