The association of major depression, conduct disorder, and maternal overcontrol with a failure to show a cortisol buffered response in 4-month-old infants of teenage mothers.Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Sep 15; 62(6):573-9.BP
Adolescent pregnancy can be associated with major depression (MD) and conduct disorder (CD). Some infants of adolescent mothers are prenatally exposed to these factors, which may result in heightened risk for perturbations of their stress systems. Between 2 and 4 months, a normal shift occurs in the adrenocortical system in which we observe a marked decrease in infant cortisol response when facing mild stressors. This study aimed to explore whether MD (lifetime, during pregnancy, postpartum), CD, and maternal overcontrol are associated with increased cortisol reactivity in 4-month-old infants of teenage mothers.
Using arm restraint as a stressor, morning salivary cortisol was taken prestressor and poststressor in 212 infants during a laboratory visit. Major depression and CD were measured with the computerized National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule (NIMH-DIS), postpartum depressive mood was measured with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, and overcontrol was observed with the CARE-Index.
Independent of the predictors, there was a dampened cortisol response. Infants of mothers with lifetime MD and of average to highly overcontrolling mothers showed increased cortisol reactivity. Conduct disorder and cortisol levels were not associated.
Future studies should detect whether the absence of a dampened cortisol response in infants whose mothers have lifetime MD or display overcontrolling parenting is stable over time.