Maternal Substance Use and Toddler Self-Regulation

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The purpose of this longitudinal study is
to .investigate the impact of maternal substance use (with cocaine as the
primary drug of choice) and associated risk factors on toddler self-regulation.
Self-regulation in the toddler period is defined by the emergence of impulse
control, compliance to directives, and internalization of rules of conduct.
Dysregulation in these aspects of toddler functioning may serve as the first
step in the trajectory toward increasing regulatory problems in this group of
children (e.g. behavior problems, conduct disorder). The study is guided by a
developmental psychopathology framework and prior models of development among
children of substance using mothers. In this framework, the impact of maternal
cocaine use on toddler self-regulation may occur through several pathways. The
first is the direct, teratological impact of prenatal cocaine exposure on
regulatory processes. The second potential pathway is the impact of maternal
cocaine use on growth outcomes, and these in turn influencing infant reactivity
and regulation, and toddler self-regulation. A third pathway may be the through
the influence of cocaine use on the quality of mother-infant interactionG. A
fourth pathway may be the impact of maternal cocaine use on the quality of the
care giving environment, defined as exposure to violence, instability in care
giving, and maternal psychopathology. Alternatively, these risk factors may
moderate the impact of maternal cocaine use on regulation.

The protocol involves recruiting mother-infant dyads at birth from two local
area hospitals. The final sample will consist of 120 infants prenatally exposed
to cocaine and other substances (alcohol, nicotine, and/or marijuana), and 120
non-exposed infants (exposed to no illicit substances or large amounts of
alcohol and nicotine). Assessments of physiological (spectral analysis of heart
rate and vagal tone) and behavioral reactivity and regulation will be conducted
at 1, 7, and 13 months of infant age. Assessments of toddler self-regulation
(impulse control, compliance, and internalization) will be conducted at 24
months of age. In addition, mother-infant interactions and the caregiving
environment (exposure to violence, care giving instability, and maternal
psychopathology) will be assessed at each age. The study will provide
information about potential teratogenic effects of cocaine exposure on
developmental trajectories to regulatory problems. It will also allow an
examination of potential pathways to dysregulation and increase our
understanding of risk and protective factors that may moderate regulatory
outcomes. Such knowledge may have significant implications for prevention
programs designed to ameliorate regulatory disturbances among children of
cocaine using mothers.
Effective start/end date6/6/015/31/02


  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: $412,263.00

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