The influence of prenatal intimate partner violence exposure on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis reactivity and childhood internalizing and externalizing symptoms.Dev Psychopathol. 2016 Feb; 28(1):55-72.DP
This prospective longitudinal study examines the long-term influence of intimate partner violence (IPV) exposure in utero. We hypothesized that (a) prenatal IPV increases risk for internalizing and externalizing problems as well as for a profile of dysregulated cortisol reactivity, and (b) patterns of cortisol hyper- and hyporeactivity are differentially associated with internalizing and externalizing problems. The participants were 119 10-year-old children. Their mothers reported their IPV experiences and distress during pregnancy. Child and maternal reports of internalizing and externalizing problems as well as lifetime IPV exposure were obtained. Salivary cortisol was assessed at baseline, 20 min, and 40 min after challenge. The results partially supported our hypotheses: Exposure to IPV during pregnancy predicted child-reported internalizing and externalizing problems, mother ratings of child externalizing problems, and a profile of high cortisol secretion before and after stress challenge. The results were significant above and beyond the influence of maternal distress during pregnancy and IPV that occurred during the child's life. In addition, a profile of high cortisol secretion was associated with maternal reports of child internalizing behaviors. Findings support the growing consensus that prenatal stress can lead to lasting disruptions in adaptation and highlight the need for more longitudinal examinations of prenatal IPV exposure.