Developmental origins of infant stress reactivity profiles: A multi-system approach

Joshua A. Rash, Jenna C. Thomas, Tavis S. Campbell, Nicole Letourneau, Douglas A. Granger, Gerald F. Giesbrecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Background: This study tested the hypothesis that maternal physiological and psychological variables during pregnancy discriminate between theoretically informed infant stress reactivity profiles. Methods: 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. Results: Maternal stress biomarkers, along with self-reported psychological distress during pregnancy, discriminated between infant stress reactivity profiles. Conclusions: These results suggest that maternal psychological and physiological states during pregnancy have broad effects on the development of the infant stress response systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2016



  • Fetal programming
  • Psychological distress
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia
  • Salivary cortisol
  • Salivary α-amylase
  • Stress reactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Cite this

Rash, J. A., Thomas, J. C., Campbell, T. S., Letourneau, N., Granger, D. A., & Giesbrecht, G. F. (Accepted/In press). Developmental origins of infant stress reactivity profiles: A multi-system approach. Developmental Psychobiology.