This study examined interrelations between prenatal cocaine exposure, child autonomic regulation, parenting behavior and child sex on parent-reported behavior problems at 36. months of age. We hypothesized that respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) at 13. months of age would mediate the relation between cocaine exposure and behavior problems. We also hypothesized that child sex, maternal negative affect, and maternal sensitivity observed at 13. months of age would moderate the relation between RSA and behavior problems. Results revealed that cocaine exposure predicted low baseline RSA and low RSA withdrawal during a negative affect task. Low baseline RSA, in turn, predicted fewer behavior problems offering support for an indirect association between cocaine exposure and behavior problems. The association between baseline RSA and behavior problems was further moderated by maternal negative affect such that high baseline RSA was more strongly related to behavior problems under conditions of high compared to low maternal negative affect. Results also revealed a near significant trend for baseline RSA to be more strongly related to behavior problems among boys than girls. These findings highlight several possible pathways toward behavior problems among cocaine exposed children.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience