The current study evaluated a mechanistic pathway by which prenatal stress increases the risk of postpartum depressive (PPD) symptoms via observed dyadic emotional, behavioral, and attentional dysregulation and associated cortisol responses during mother-infant interactions. Methods: Participants included 322 low-income Mexican American mother-infant dyads. Depressive symptoms, economic hardship, and negative life events were assessed at a prenatal visit. Dysregulation in dyadic (mother-infant) interactions and cortisol responses to mother-infant interaction were evaluated at 12 weeks after the birth. Twenty-four weeks after the birth, PPD symptoms were predicted from prenatal stress (negative life events and economic hardship) and prenatal depressive symptoms, mediated through dyadic dysregulation and maternal and infant cortisol responses. Results: More negative life events in the prenatal period predicted more dyadic dysregulation at 12 weeks postpartum. Dyadic dysregulation and economic hardship predicted elevated 12-week infant cortisol total response and reactivity, and higher total infant cortisol response predicted higher maternal PPD symptoms at 24 weeks. Maternal cortisol response was not associated with dyadic dysregulation, either form of prenatal stress, or PPD symptoms. Conclusion: The results indicate the salience of early psychosocial processes and mother-infant relationship challenges for subsequent maternal affective well-being.
- Dyadic dysregulation
- Postpartum depression
- Prenatal stress
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology