Maternal Psychopathology Influences Infant Heart Rate Variability: Generation R Study

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Objective: To assess the determinants of heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) in children. The autonomic nervous system as measured by HR and HRV is considered a biological marker of psychopathology in children. Methods: We examined the relationship of maternal psychopathology with infant HR and HRV. HR was recorded at 14 months in 528 infants. The high-frequency component of HRV was used as an indicator of cardiac vagal modulation. The presence of a lifetime maternal psychiatric diagnosis was assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Presence of maternal psychiatric symptoms during pregnancy and 2 months after birth was assessed, using the Brief Symptom Inventory. Results: A maternal history of a psychiatric disorder was associated with a 0.24-standard deviation (SD) higher mean HR in the infant (beta=0.24, 95% Confidence Interval (CI)=0.03, 0.4, p=.025) and a 0.14-SD lower high-frequency power (beta=-0.14, 95% CI=-0.6, -0.03, p=.003). Likewise, postnatal maternal anxiety and depression symptoms were associated with infant mean HR. A1-point increase in the mean anxiety symptom score was associated with 0.14-SD higher mean HR in the infant (beta=0.14, 95% CI=0.05, 0.2, p=.004), and a 1-point increase in mean depression score with a 0.11-SD increase (beta=0.11, 95% CI=0.01, 0.2, p=.025). No significant associations of prenatal maternal affective symptoms with infants autonomic functioning were found. Conclusion: Maternal lifetime psychiatric diagnosis and postnatal psychiatric symptoms are associated with infant autonomic functioning, namely, higher mean HR and lower vagal modulation.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)313-321
Number of pages9
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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