Maternal sensitivity and infant autonomic and endocrine stress responses

Michelle Bosquet Enlow, Lucy King, Hannah M. C. Schreier, Jamie M. Howard, David Rosenfield, Thomas Ritz, Rosalind J. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Early environmental exposures may help shape the development of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, influencing vulnerability for health problems across the lifespan. Little is known about the role of maternal sensitivity in influencing the development of the ANS in early life. Aims: To examine associations among maternal sensitivity and infant behavioral distress and ANS and HPA axis reactivity to the Repeated Still-Face Paradigm (SFP-R), a dyadic stress task. Study design: Observational repeated measures study. Subjects: Thirty-five urban, sociodemographically diverse mothers and their 6-month-old infants. Outcome measures: Changes in infant affective distress, heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and T-wave amplitude (TWA) across episodes of the SFP-R were assessed. A measure of cortisol output (area under the curve) in the hour following cessation of the SFP-R was also obtained. Results: Greater maternal insensitivity was associated with greater infant sympathetic activation (TWA) during periods of stress and tended to be associated with greater cortisol output following the SFP-R. There was also evidence for greater affective distress and less parasympathetic activation (RSA) during the SFP-R among infants of predominantly insensitive mothers. Conclusions: Caregiving quality in early life may influence the responsiveness of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the ANS as well as the HPA axis. Consideration of the ANS and HPA axis systems together provides a fuller representation of adaptive versus maladaptive stress responses. The findings highlight the importance of supporting high quality caregiving in the early years of life, which is likely to promote later health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-385
Number of pages9
JournalEarly Human Development
Volume90
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

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Autonomic Nervous System
Mothers
Hydrocortisone
Pituitary-Adrenal System
Environmental Exposure
Health
Area Under Curve
Observational Studies
Heart Rate
Outcome Assessment (Health Care)
Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

Cite this

Bosquet Enlow, M., King, L., Schreier, H. M. C., Howard, J. M., Rosenfield, D., Ritz, T., & Wright, R. J. (2014). Maternal sensitivity and infant autonomic and endocrine stress responses. Early Human Development, 90(7), 377-385. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2014.04.007
Bosquet Enlow, Michelle ; King, Lucy ; Schreier, Hannah M. C. ; Howard, Jamie M. ; Rosenfield, David ; Ritz, Thomas ; Wright, Rosalind J. / Maternal sensitivity and infant autonomic and endocrine stress responses. In: Early Human Development. 2014 ; Vol. 90, No. 7. pp. 377-385.
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Bosquet Enlow, M, King, L, Schreier, HMC, Howard, JM, Rosenfield, D, Ritz, T & Wright, RJ 2014, 'Maternal sensitivity and infant autonomic and endocrine stress responses', Early Human Development, vol. 90, no. 7, pp. 377-385. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2014.04.007

Maternal sensitivity and infant autonomic and endocrine stress responses. / Bosquet Enlow, Michelle; King, Lucy; Schreier, Hannah M. C.; Howard, Jamie M.; Rosenfield, David; Ritz, Thomas; Wright, Rosalind J.

In: Early Human Development, Vol. 90, No. 7, 01.01.2014, p. 377-385.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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