This study examined the direct and indirect associations between maternal cocaine use during pregnancy and mother-toddler aggression in an interactive context at 2. years of child age. We hypothesized that in addition to direct effects of cocaine exposure on maternal and child aggression, the association between maternal cocaine use and mother-toddler aggression may be indirect via higher maternal psychiatric symptoms, negative affect, or poor infant autonomic regulation at 13. months. Participants consisted of 220 (119 cocaine exposed, 101 non-cocaine exposed) mother-toddler dyads participating in an ongoing longitudinal study of prenatal cocaine exposure. Results indicated that mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy displayed higher levels of aggression toward their toddlers compared to mothers in the control group. Results from model testing indicated significant indirect associations between maternal cocaine use and maternal aggression via higher maternal negative affect as well as lower infant autonomic regulation at 13. months. Although there were no direct associations between cocaine exposure and toddler aggression, there was a significant indirect effect via lower infant autonomic regulation at 13. months. Results highlight the importance of including maternal aggression in predictive models of prenatal cocaine exposure examining child aggression. Results also emphasize the important role of infant regulation as a mechanism partially explaining associations between cocaine exposure and mother-toddler aggression.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience