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The deleterious effects of adversity are likely intergenerational, such that one generation’s adverse experiences can affect the next. Epidemiological studies link maternal adversity to offspring depression and anxiety, possibly via transmission mechanisms that influence offspring fronto-limbic connectivity. However, studies have not thoroughly disassociated postnatal exposure effects nor considered the role of offspring sex. We utilized infant neuroimaging to test the hypothesis that maternal childhood maltreatment (CM) would be associated with increased fronto-limbic connectivity in infancy and tested brain-behavior associations in childhood. Ninety-two dyads participated (32 mothers with CM, 60 without; 52 infant females, 40 infant males). Women reported on their experiences of CM and non-sedated sleeping infants underwent MRIs at 2.44 ± 2.74 weeks. Brain volumes were estimated via structural MRI and white matter structural connectivity (fiber counts) via diffusion MRI with probabilistic tractography. A subset of parents (n = 36) reported on children’s behaviors at age 5.17 ± 1.73 years. Males in the maltreatment group demonstrated greater intra-hemispheric fronto-limbic connectivity (b = 0.96, p= 0.008, [95%CI 0.25, 1.66]), no differences emerged for females. Fronto-limbic connectivity was related to somatic complaints in childhood only for males (r = 0.673, p = 0.006). Our findings suggest that CM could have intergenerational associations to offspring brain development, yet mechanistic studies are needed.
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