Biological embedding of maternal postpartum depressive symptoms: The potential role of cortisol and telomere length

Roseriet Beijers, Daria Daehn, Idan Shalev, Jay Belsky, Carolina de Weerth

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Although maternal postpartum depressive symptoms (PDS) are associated with child behavior problems, the underlying biological mechanisms are poorly understood. Thus, the current study focused on 193 healthy mother-child dyads and investigated child cortisol and telomere length as potential mediating factors. At 3 and 6 months postpartum, mothers reported on PDS. At age 6, children provided saliva and buccal swab samples. At age 10, mothers and children reported on child behavior problems. Structural equation modelling revealed (a) no association between PDS and child behavior problems and thus no possibility of mediation, but that (b) lower cortisol forecast more child-reported internalizing problems, and (c) shorter telomere length predicted more child-reported internalizing and externalizing problems. These findings raise mediational questions about the determinants of these biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107809
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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