Intimate partner violence moderates the association between mother-infant adrenocortical activity across an emotional challenge.J Fam Psychol. 2009 Oct; 23(5):615-25.JF
This study examined the relationship between mother and infant adrenocortical levels and reactivity to an emotion eliciting task. The impact of intimate partner violence (IPV) on these relationships was assessed as a moderator. The sample (n = 702 mother-infant dyads) was racially diverse and from predominantly low-income, rural communities. During a home visit, the dyad's saliva was sampled before, 20 min, and 40 min after standardized tasks designed to elicit the infant's emotional arousal and later assayed for cortisol. Mothers completed self-report measures of their partner's violence, and parenting behaviors were assessed via structured interview and mother-child interactions. In response to the task, infants had positive, and mothers had negative, cortisol slopes. Contrary to expectations, there were no IPV-related differences in mean pretask cortisol levels or reactivity in the mothers or infants. Mother-infant dyads from households characterized by either (1) violence or (2) restrictive and punitive parenting behaviors exhibited correlated cortisol reactivity measured in response to the infant challenge task. The findings suggest that social contextual features of the early caregiving environment may influence individual differences in the coordination between maternal and infant adrenocortical reactivity.