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Abstract

Pregnant Long-Evans rats were stressed by crowding, and subsequent mother–infant interactions were described after cross-fostering. Prenatally stressed pups elicited less maternal licking from unstressed forster dams than controls, and previously stressed dams licked unstressed forster pups less than controls. No other differences in mother–infant interactions were detected. Adult offspring reared by foster dams that were stressed during pregnancy were more active in an open field than controls, but prenatally stressed and unstressed animals reared by control dams did not differ. Thus, stress during pregnancy can alter the maternal behavior of stressed dams, and the differential maternal stimulation can affect adult open-field behavior. Because prenatally stressed pups elicit different maternal care, cross-fostering does not eliminate the possibility that maternal stimulation may mediate some prenatal stress effects.