Article

Maternal oxytocin response during mother-infant interaction: Associations with adult temperament

Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
Hormones and Behavior (Impact Factor: 4.51). 01/2012; 61(3):429-35. DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.01.014
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Oxytocin is a neuropeptide associated with social affiliation and maternal caregiving. However, its effects appear to be moderated by various contextual factors and stable individual characteristics. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship of self-reported state and trait measures (such as temperament, mood and affect) with peripheral oxytocin response in mothers. Fifty-five first-time mothers participated in a semi-structured procedure, during which time repeated peripheral oxytocin levels were measured before, during and after an episode of mother-infant interaction. The maternal oxytocin response was then calculated, based on the difference in oxytocin concentration between initial baseline and interaction phase. Mothers also completed state measures of positive and negative affect and depression, and trait measures of temperament, personality disturbance and depression across time. Regression analyses determined which factors were independently associated with maternal oxytocin response. The trait measure of adult temperament emerged as a significant predictor of oxytocin response. Two out of four Adult Temperament Questionnaire factor scales were independently associated with oxytocin response: Effortful Control was negatively associated, whereas Orienting Sensitivity was positively associated. No state measure significantly predicted oxytocin response. The results indicate that mothers who show an increased oxytocin response when interacting with their infants are more sensitive of moods, emotions and physical sensations; and less compulsive, schedule driven and task oriented. These findings link differences in individual temperament in new mothers with the peripheral oxytocin response, which may have implications in the pharmacologic treatment of disorders such as maternal neglect, post-partum depression and maternal addiction. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Social Behavior.

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    • "The authors concluded that interaction with an unfamiliar child might constitute a more stressful situation that results in an increase in OT in order to modulate this stress. It is possible that HSMs perceive their infant signals as a positive event (Turner et al., 2002), give appropriate attention and focus to these signals (Strathearn et al., 2012), and that their plasma OT levels accordingly reflects this and falls during play with infant. By contrast, LSMs may not perceive interaction with their infant as a positive event; they do not give proper attention and focus to their infant signals, and accordingly, their OT levels remain relatively elevated. "
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    ABSTRACT: Maternal sensitivity to infant cues and developmental needs may be pivotal for social and cognitive development. Animal and recent human studies emphasise a major role for Oxytocin (OT) in mediating sensitive caregiving but no study has examined the relationship between OT and extreme variation in human maternal sensitivity. From 105 expectant mothers, 80 underwent blind-rating of maternal sensitivity at 4-6 months postpartum through free-play interaction with their infants. At 7-9 months postpartum, 30 mothers at extremes of maternal sensitivity: 15 'sensitive mothers' (high sensitivity mothers - HSMs), (mean=4.47; SD=0.74)) and 15 'less sensitive mothers' (low sensitivity mothers - LSMs), (mean=2.13; SD=0.52)) underwent plasma OT measurements before and after 10 minutes infant play. Baseline and post-interaction plasma OT was higher in LSMs than HSMs [F(1, 26)=8.42; p=0.01]. HSMs showed a trend towards significant reduction in plasma OT [t(14)=2.01;p=0.06] following play-interaction; no change was shown by LSMs [t(13)=- 0.14;p=0.89]. Higher baseline OT levels in healthy LSMs may imply greater stress responses to the demands of caring for an infant, or past deficiencies in own parenting relationship and act as a biomarker for poor parental sensitivity. OT may be acting to reduce stress and anxiety in LSMs consistent with studies of plasma OT and stress in women. By contrast, in HSMs, play interaction with their infants maybe relaxing as indicated by significant reduction in plasma OT from baseline. Ascertainment of mothers in well-defined sensitivity groups might facilitate examination of distinct coping strategies in parents and better understanding of variation in parental caregiving behaviour and its potential for modulation by OT.
    Brain research 01/2014; 1580. DOI:10.1016/j.brainres.2014.01.020 · 2.83 Impact Factor
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    • "Prospective and cross-sectional studies have demonstrated that maternal oxytocin levels are systematically associated with naturally occurring variations in maternal behavior, with high plasma oxytocin level during pregnancy and postpartum predicting increased maternal behavior in the postpartum months (Atzil et al., 2011; Feldman et al., 2007; Gordon et al., 2010). Interaction with their young in the postpartum period further stimulates oxytocin response in mothers (Feldman et al., 2010a; Feldman et al., 2010b), though significant inter-individual variations have been found (Strathearn et al., 2012), as with the baseline oxytocin levels. These natural variations in maternal oxytocin response have systematically predicted differences in the quality of maternal care provided by mothers (Feldman et al., 2010a; Feldman et al., 2010b). "
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