This study tested the hypothesis that maternal physiological and psychological variables during pregnancy discriminate between theoretically informed infant stress reactivity profiles.
The sample comprised 254 women and their infants. Maternal mood, salivary cortisol, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and salivary α-amylase (sAA) were assessed at 15 and 32 weeks gestational age. Infant salivary cortisol, RSA, and sAA reactivity were assessed in response to a structured laboratory frustration task at 6 months of age. Infant responses were used to classify them into stress reactivity profiles using three different classification schemes: hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis, autonomic, and multi-system. Discriminant function analyses evaluated the prenatal variables that best discriminated infant reactivity profiles within each classification scheme.
Maternal stress biomarkers, along with self-reported psychological distress during pregnancy, discriminated between infant stress reactivity profiles.
These results suggest that maternal psychological and physiological states during pregnancy have broad effects on the development of the infant stress response systems. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 58: 578-599, 2016.