The early postpartum period lays important groundwork for later self-regulation as infants' dispositional traits interact with caregivers' co-regulatory behaviors to produce the earliest forms of self-regulation. Although emerging literature suggests that fetal exposure to maternal stress may be integral in determining child self-regulatory capacity, the complex pathways that characterize these early developmental processes remain unclear. The current study considers these complex, transactional processes in a low income, Mexican American sample. Data were collected from 295 Mexican American infants and their mothers during prenatal, 6- and 12-week postpartum home interviews. Mother reports of stress were obtained prenatally, and mother reports of infant temperament were obtained at 6 weeks. Observer ratings of maternal sensitivity and infant regulatory behaviors were obtained at the 6- and 12-week time points. Study results indicate that prenatal stress predicts higher levels of infant negativity and surgency, both of which directly or interactively predict later engagement in regulatory behaviors. Unexpectedly, prenatal stress also predicted more engagement in orienting, but not self-comforting behaviors. Advancing understandings about the nature of these developmental pathways may have significant implications for targets of early intervention in this high risk population.
- Maternal sensitivity
- Prenatal stress
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology