Autonomic and brain electrical activity in securely- and insecurely-attached infants of depressed mothers

Geraldine Dawson, Sharon B. Ashman, David R Hessl, Susan Spieker, Karin Frey, Heracles Panagiotides, Lara Embry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Scopus citations

Abstract

The present study examined the combined influences of maternal depression and attachment security on infants' brain activity and autonomic activity. Brain electrical activity, heart rate, and vagal tone were recorded from 159 13-15 month old infants of depressed, subthreshold depressed, and nondepressed mothers during a baseline and two social interaction conditions. Attachment behavior was observed during the traditional Strange Situation. It was found that infants of depressed mothers exhibited reduced left relative to right frontal brain activity during all conditions. Moreover, regardless of mother's depression status, insecurely attached infants exhibited relative reduced left frontal brain activity. Infants of depressed mothers were also found to exhibit higher heart rates across all conditions. These results indicate that both maternal depression and attachment security are associated with alterations in infants' psychophysiological responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-149
Number of pages15
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Volume24
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2001
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Attachment
  • Brain activity
  • Heart rate
  • Maternal depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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