Maternal Postpartum Depression Increases Vulnerability for Toddler Behavior Problems through Infant Cortisol Reactivity

Jamie M. Lawler, Erika L. Bocknek, Ellen W. McGinnis, Cecilia Martinez-Torteya, Katherine L. Rosenblum, Maria Muzik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The current study examined the role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal reactivity (a physiological indicator of stress) in early infancy as a mediator of the relationship between maternal postpartum depression and toddler behavior problems. Participants were 137 at-risk mothers and their children participating in a longitudinal study of intergenerational transmission of risk. Mothers' depression was measured five times during the infants' first 18 months. Infant cortisol was collected during a social stressor (the still-face paradigm) when infants were 6 months old, and mothers reported on toddlers' internalizing and externalizing symptoms at 18 months. Among this sample of high-risk mother-infant dyads, early postpartum depression predicted atypical infant cortisol reactivity at Correspondence should be sent to
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-274
Number of pages26
Issue number2
Early online date21 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this research was provided by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (MH080147; Principal Investigator, M.M.) and the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research at the University of Michigan (UL1RR024986; Principal Investigator, M.M.). We thank the mothers and children who made this research possible and gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Amanda Fezzey, Heather Cameron, Rena Menke, Alexi Wisher, Lauren Earls, Lori Stark, Ryan Hill, Kayla Frick, and Alex Busuito.

Publisher Copyright:
© International Congress of Infant Studies (ICIS)

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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