Effects of maternal and paternal postnatal depressive symptoms on infants’ parasympathetic regulation in low-income, Mexican American families

Betty Lin, Anna J. Yeo, Linda J. Luecken, Danielle S. Roubinov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mothers and fathers are at elevated risk for developing depression during the first postnatal year, especially among families from marginalized communities. Although a number of studies demonstrate that exposure to maternal depressive symptoms can undermine infants’ regulatory development, less is known about the extent to which paternal depressive symptoms may also contribute. The current study investigated whether maternal and paternal depressive symptoms were uniquely associated with infants’ physiological regulation, and whether associations varied depending on infant sex. Participants included 90 low-income Mexican American families. Fathers and mothers self-reported their depressive symptoms when infants were 15 weeks old, and infants’ resting parasympathetic activity (i.e., respiratory sinus arrhythmia [RSA]) was assessed at 6 and 24 weeks. Results indicated that, after controlling for infant 6-week RSA and depressive symptoms in the other parent, paternal depressive symptoms were associated with lower 24-week RSA for both girls and boys, but maternal depressive symptoms were only associated with lower 24-week RSA for boys. Findings highlight a potential mechanism through which the consequences of parent depressive symptoms may reverberate across generations, and suggest that considerations of both infants’ and parents’ sex may lend insight into how best to intervene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1436-1448
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Volume63
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Mexican Americans
  • fathers
  • infants
  • postnatal depressive symptoms
  • respiratory sinus arrhythmia
  • self-regulation
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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