Maternal postpartum depression increases vulnerability for toddler behavior problems through infant cortisol reactivity
The current study examined the role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal reactivity (a physiological indicator of stress) in early infancy as a mediator of the relationship between maternal postpartum depression and toddler behavior problems. Participants were 137 at-risk mothers and their children participating in a longitudinal study of intergenerational transmission of risk. Mothers’ depression was measured five times during the infants’ first 18 months. Infant cortisol was collected during a social stressor (the still-face paradigm) when infants were 6 months old, and mothers reported on toddlers’ internalizing and externalizing symptoms at 18 months. Among this sample of high-risk mother–infant dyads, early postpartum depression predicted atypical infant cortisol reactivity at 6 months, which mediated the effect of maternal depression on increased toddler behavior problems. Clinical implications are discussed.
Link to Published Version
Lawler, J. M., Bocknek, E. L., McGinnis, E. W., Martinez-Torteya, C., Rosenblum, K. L., & Muzik, M. (2019). Maternal postpartum depression increases vulnerability for toddler behavior problems through infant cortisol reactivity. Infancy, 24(2), 249–274. https://doi.org/10.1111/infa.12271