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Negative emotionality (NE) was evaluated as a candidate mechanism linking prenatal maternal affective symptoms and offspring internalizing problems during the preschool/early school age period. The participants were 335 mother–infant dyads from the Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability and Neurodevelopment project. A Confirmatory Bifactor Analysis (CFA) based on self-report measures of prenatal depression and pregnancy-specific anxiety generated a general factor representing overlapping symptoms of prenatal maternal psychopathology and four distinct symptom factors representing pregnancy-specific anxiety, negative affect, anhedonia and somatization. NE was rated by the mother at 18 and 36 months. CFA based on measures of father, mother, child-rated measures and a semistructured interview generated a general internalizing factor representing overlapping symptoms of child internalizing psychopathology accounting for the unique contribution of each informant. Path analyses revealed significant relationships among the general maternal affective psychopathology, the pregnancy- specific anxiety, and the child internalizing factors. Child NE mediated only the relationship between pregnancy-specific anxiety and the child internalizing factors. We highlighted the conditions in which prenatal maternal affective symptoms predicts child internalizing problems emerging early in development, including consideration of different mechanistic pathways for different maternal prenatal symptom presentations and child temperament.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with multimorbidity in adulthood. This link may be mediated by psychosocial and biological factors, but evidence is lacking. The current study evaluates this mediation model.
We analyzed data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging (N = 27 170 community participants). Participants were 45–85 years at recruitment, when allostatic load and social engagement data were collected, and 3 years older at follow-up, when ACEs and multimorbidity data were collected. Structural equation modeling was used to test for mediation in the overall sample, and in sex- and age-stratified subsamples, all analyses adjusted for concurrent lifestyle confounds.
In the overall sample, ACEs were associated with multimorbidity, directly, β = 0.12 (95% confidence interval 0.11–0.13) and indirectly. Regarding indirect associations, ACEs were related to social engagement, β = −0.14 (−0.16 to −0.12) and social engagement was related to multimorbidity, β = −0.10 (−0.12 to −0.08). ACEs were related to allostatic load, β = 0.04 (0.03–0.05) and allostatic load was related to multimorbidity, β = 0.16 (0.15–0.17). The model was significant for males and females and across age cohorts, with qualifications in the oldest stratum (age 75–85).
ACEs are related to multimorbidity, directly and via social engagement and allostatic load. This is the first study to show mediated pathways between early adversity and multimorbidity in adulthood. It provides a platform for understanding multimorbidity as a lifespan dynamic informing the co-occurrence of the varied disease processes represented in multimorbidity.
We examined maternal depression and maternal sensitivity as mediators of the association between maternal childhood adversity and her child's temperament in 239 mother–child dyads from a longitudinal, birth cohort study. We used an integrated measure of maternal childhood adversity that included the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and the Parental Bonding Index. Maternal depression was assessed with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale at 6 months postpartum. Maternal sensitivity was assessed with the Ainsworth maternal sensitivity scales at 6 months. A measure of “negative emotionality/behavioral dysregulation” was derived from the Early Childhood Behaviour Questionnaire administered at 36 months. Bootstrapping-based mediation analyses revealed that maternal depression mediated the effect of maternal childhood adversity on offspring negative emotionality/behavioral dysregulation (95% confidence interval [0.026, 0.144]). We also found a serial, indirect effect of maternal childhood adversity on child negative emotionality/behavioral mediated first by maternal depression and then by maternal sensitivity (95% confidence interval [0.031, 0.156]). Results suggest the intergenerational transmission of the effects of maternal childhood adversity to the offspring occurs through a two-step, serial pathway, involving maternal depression and maternal sensitivity.
This study explores the conceptualization of mother–infant cortisol attunement both theoretically and empirically, and its association with mother–infant attachment disorganization. In a community sample (N = 256), disorganization and cortisol were assessed during the Strange Situation Procedure (SSP) at infant age 17 months. Salivary cortisol was collected at baseline, and 20 and 40 min after the SSP. We utilized three statistical approaches: correlated growth modeling (probing a simultaneous conceptualization of attunement), cross-lagged modeling (probing a lagged, reciprocal conceptualization of attunement), and a multilevel model difference score analysis (to examine the pattern of discrepancies in mother–infant cortisol values). Correlated growth modeling revealed that disorganized, relative to organized, dyads had significant magnitude of change over time, such that, among disorganized dyads, as mothers had greater declines in cortisol, infants had greater increases. The difference score analysis revealed that disorganized, relative to organized, dyads had a greater divergence between maternal and infant cortisol values, such that maternal values were lower than infant values. Disorganized attachment status was not significantly associated with attunement when conceptualized as reciprocal and lagged in the cross-lagged model. Findings suggest that mother–infant dyads in disorganized attachment relationships, who are by definition behaviorally misattuned, are also misattuned in their adrenocortical responses.
Although infants less than 18 months old are capable of engaging in self-regulatory behavior (e.g., avoidance, withdrawal, and orienting to other aspects of their environment), the use of self-regulatory strategies at this age (as opposed to relying on caregivers) is associated with elevated behavioral and physiological distress. This study investigated infant dopamine-related genotypes (dopamine receptor D2 [DRD2], dopamine transporter solute carrier family C6, member 4 [SLC6A3], and catechol-O-methyltransferase [COMT]) as they interact with maternal self-reported history of maltreatment to predict observed infant independent emotion regulation behavior. A community sample (N = 193) of mother–infant dyads participated in a toy frustration challenge at infant age 15 months, and infant emotion regulation behavior was coded. Buccal cells were collected for genotyping. Maternal maltreatment history significantly interacted with infant SLC6A3 and COMT genotypes, such that infants with more 10-repeat and valine alleles of SLC6A3 and COMT, respectively, relative to infants with fewer or no 10-repeat and valine alleles, utilized more independent (i.e., maladaptive) regulatory behavior if mother reported a more extensive maltreatment history, as opposed to less. The findings indicate that child genetic factors moderate the intergenerational impact of maternal maltreatment history. The results are discussed in terms of potential mechanism of Gene × Environment interaction.
Although randomized interventions trials have been shown to reduce the incidence of disorganized attachment, no studies to date have identified the mechanisms of change responsible for such reductions. Maternal sensitivity has been assessed in various studies and shown to change with intervention, but in the only study to formally assess mediation, changes in maternal sensitivity did not mediate changes in infant security of attachment (Cicchetti, Rogosch, & Toth, 2006). Primary aims of the current randomized controlled intervention trial in a high-risk population were to fill gaps in the literature by assessing whether the intervention (a) reduced disorganization, (b) reduced disrupted maternal communication, and (c) whether reductions in disrupted maternal communication mediated changes in infant disorganization. The results indicated that, compared to controls (n = 52), both infant disorganization and disrupted maternal communication were significantly reduced in the intervention group (n = 65) that received regular home-visiting during pregnancy and the first year of life. Furthermore, reductions in disrupted maternal communication partially accounted for the observed reductions in infant disorganization compared to randomized controls. The results are discussed in relation to the societal cost effectiveness of early attachment-informed interventions for mothers and infants, as well as the importance of formally assessing underlying mechanisms of change in order to improve and appropriately target preventive interventions.
Prenatal maternal depression and a multilocus genetic profile of two susceptibility genes implicated in the stress response were examined in an interaction model predicting negative emotionality in the first 3 years. In 179 mother–infant dyads from the Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability, and Neurodevelopment cohort, prenatal depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depressions Scale) was assessed at 24 to 36 weeks. The multilocus genetic profile score consisted of the number of susceptibility alleles from the serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region gene (5-HTTLPR): no long-rs25531(A) (LA: short/short, short/long-rs25531(G) [LG], or LG/LG] vs. any LA) and the dopamine receptor D4 gene (six to eight repeats vs. two to five repeats). Negative emotionality was extracted from the Infant Behaviour Questionnaire—Revised at 3 and 6 months and the Early Child Behavior Questionnaire at 18 and 36 months. Mixed and confirmatory regression analyses indicated that prenatal depression and the multilocus genetic profile interacted to predict negative emotionality from 3 to 36 months. The results were characterized by a differential susceptibility model at 3 and 6 months and by a diathesis–stress model at 36 months.
Richerson et al. argue that “cultural group selection plays an essential role in explaining human cooperation.” We believe that cooperation came first, making culture and thus cultural group selection possible. Cooperation and culture began – and begins – in mother–infant interaction.
Disorganized attachment is an important early risk factor for socioemotional problems throughout childhood and into adulthood. Prevailing models of the etiology of disorganized attachment emphasize the role of highly dysfunctional parenting, to the exclusion of complex models examining the interplay of child and parental factors. Decades of research have established that extreme child birth weight may have long-term effects on developmental processes. These effects are typically negative, but this is not always the case. Recent studies have also identified the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) as a moderator of childrearing effects on the development of disorganized attachment. However, there are inconsistent findings concerning which variant of the polymorphism (seven-repeat long-form allele or non–seven-repeat short-form allele) is most likely to interact with caregiving in predicting disorganized versus organized attachment. In this study, we examined possible two- and three-way interactions and child DRD4 polymorphisms and birth weight and maternal caregiving at age 6 months in longitudinally predicting attachment disorganization at 36 months. Our sample is from the Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability and Neurodevelopment project, a sample of 650 mother–child dyads. Birth weight was cross-referenced with normative data to calculate birth weight percentile. Infant DRD4 was obtained with buccal swabs and categorized according to the presence of the putative allele seven repeat. Macroanalytic and microanalytic measures of maternal behavior were extracted from a videotaped session of 20 min of nonfeeding interaction followed by a 10-min divided attention maternal task at 6 months. Attachment was assessed at 36 months using the Strange Situation procedure, and categorized into disorganized attachment and others. The results indicated that a main effect for DRD4 and a two-way interaction of birth weight and 6-month maternal attention (frequency of maternal looking away behavior) and sensitivity predicted disorganized attachment in robust logistic regression models adjusted for social demographic covariates. Specifically, children in the midrange of birth weight were more likely to develop a disorganized attachment when exposed to less attentive maternal care. However, the association reversed with extreme birth weight (low and high). The DRD4 seven-repeat allele was associated with less disorganized attachment (protective), while non–seven-repeat children were more likely to be classified as disorganized attachment. The implications for understanding inconsistencies in the literature about which DRD4 genotype is the risk direction are also considered. Suggestions for intervention with families with infants at different levels of biological risk and caregiving risk are also discussed.
Although central to attachment theory, internal working models remain a useful heuristic in need of concretization. We compared the selective attention of organized and disorganized mothers using the emotional Stroop task. Both disorganized attachment and emotional Stroop response involve the coordination of strongly conflicting motivations under conditions of emotional arousal. Furthermore, much is known about the cognitive and neuromodulatory correlates of the Stroop that may inform attempts to substantiate the internal working model construct. We assessed 47 community mothers with the Adult Attachment Interview and the Working Model of the Child Interview in the third trimester of pregnancy. At 6 and 12 months postpartum, we assessed mothers with emotional Stroop tasks involving neutral, attachment, and emotion conditions. At 12 months, we observed their infants in the Strange Situation. Results showed that: disorganized attachment is related to relative Stroop reaction time, that is, unlike organized mothers, disorganized mothers respond to negative attachment/emotion stimuli more slowly than to neutral stimuli; relative speed of response is positively related to number of times the dyad was classified disorganized, and change in relative Stroop response time from 6 to 12 months is related to the match-mismatch status of mother and infant attachment classifications. We discuss implications in terms of automatic and controlled processing and, more specifically, cognitive threat tags, parallel distributed processing, and neuromodulation through norepenephrine and dopamine.
It has been argued that school refusal may not be a unitary syndrome, but a common presenting symptom founded on differing underlying dynamics. The paper explores this hypothesis empirically. The clinical files of 100 refusers were scored for several variables which could potentially differentiate between school refusal subtypes, and for several commonly accepted beliefs about school refusal. The data were subjected to a variety of analyses, culminating in cluster analysis. Cluster (C) 1 consisted of children who feared separation from dependent, overprotective mothers. C2 youngsters were perfectionistic and depressed. They dominated mothers who had been deprived in childhood. C3 consisted of extensively disturbed children from multiproblem families, who had suffered early separation or loss, and who were fearful and depressed.