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Attachment disorganization moderates the effect of maternal postnatal depressive symptoms on infant autonomic functioning

Authors

  • Anne Tharner,

    1. Generation R Study Group, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Center for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
    3. Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Bram Dierckx,

    1. Generation R Study Group, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Maartje P.C.M. Luijk,

    1. Center for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
    2. School of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Marinus H. van Ijzendoorn,

    1. Center for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
    2. School of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg,

    1. Center for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
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  • Joost R. van Ginkel,

    1. Center for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
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  • Henriette A. Moll,

    1. Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Vincent W.V. Jaddoe,

    1. Generation R Study Group, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    3. Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Albert Hofman,

    1. Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • James J. Hudziak,

    1. Vermont Center for Children, Youth, and Families, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, Vermont, USA
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  • Frank C Verhulst,

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Henning Tiemeier

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Psychiatry, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    • Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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  • The Generation R Study is conducted by the Erasmus Medical Center in close collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Erasmus University, the Municipal Health Service Rotterdam area, the Rotterdam Homecare Foundation, and the Stichting Trombosedienst & Artsenlaboratorium Rijnmond (STAR). We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of general practitioners, hospitals, midwives, and pharmacies in Rotterdam. The first phase of the Generation R Study is made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (Zon Mw). The present study was supported by an additional grant from the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (Geestkracht program grant 10.000.1003), and by additional grants from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (grant no. 400-04-182; grant no. 453-09-003 (VICI) to MJBK; grant no. 017.106.370 (NWO ZonMw VIDI) to HT, and NWO SPINOZA prize to MHvIJ).

Address correspondence to: Dr. Henning Tiemeier, Erasmus Medical Center, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, P.O. Box 2060, 3000 CB Rotterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: h.tiemeier@erasmusmc.nl

Abstract

We examined associations of disorganized attachment and maternal depressive symptoms with infant autonomic functioning in 450 infant-mother dyads enrolled in the Generation R study. Maternal depressive symptoms were measured 2 months postpartum with the Brief Symptom Inventory. At 14 months, we assessed infant attachment with a slightly shortened Strange Situation and measured infant resting heart rate. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) was calculated using spectral analysis. Higher levels of maternal postnatal depressive symptoms predicted lower resting RSA in disorganized infants (B = −0.31, SE = 0.15, p = .04, R2 = .05) but not in nondisorganized infants (B = 0.05, SE = 0.06, p = .36). This effect was buffered in disorganized infants with a secondary secure attachment classification. Disorganized infants were more vulnerable to the effect of maternal postnatal depressive symptoms on the physiological stress systems.

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