The impact of maternal childhood abuse on maternal and infant HPA axis function in the postpartum period

Department of Psychology, Emory University, United States
Psychoneuroendocrinology (Impact Factor: 4.94). 06/2010; 35(5):686-693. DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.10.009


BackgroundEarly life trauma, particularly child abuse, has been associated with aberrations in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis functioning in adulthood. However, the relationship of early abuse and later adult neuroendocrine changes may be moderated by additional factors such as comorbid psychopathology and recent life stress. Parental exposure to child abuse may have transgenerational effects, with offspring of abuse victims showing similar neuroendocrine profiles as their mothers. The majority of previous studies in this area focus on adult offspring, and the degree to which the effects of parental child abuse can be detected earlier in the development of the offspring remains obscure.MethodsThe current study utilized a clinical sample of women with a history of MDD (N = 126), to examine the effects of maternal early life sexual and physical abuse (Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ)) on both maternal and infant salivary cortisol levels during a laboratory stress paradigm at 6 months postpartum.ResultsMaternal child abuse was associated with steeper declines in cortisol in the mothers and lower baseline cortisol in their infants. Comorbid maternal PTSD, current maternal depressive symptoms, and recent life stressors were significant moderators of maternal cortisol change. Maternal abuse history was associated with increases in cortisol levels in those mothers who experienced these additional stressors. Similarly, a history of early maternal abuse and comorbid PTSD was associated with greater increases in infant cortisol levels.ConclusionsMaternal childhood abuse was associated with HPA axis function in both the mother and the infant during the postpartum period.

Download full-text


Available from: D Jeffrey Newport
  • Source
    • "Additionally, health risks and outcomes among disadvantaged populations are correlated with structural and sociodemographic disadvantages (e.g., poverty, low levels of education, substandard housing, and poor access to services) as well as with high rates of cooccurring physical health problems (e.g., diabetes and cardiovascular disease). Also, trauma and violence exposure (including intergenerational and historical trauma exposures) are associated with co-occurring psychopathology (e.g., post–traumatic stress disorder and depression;Brand et al., 2010;Matthews & Phillips, 2010;Nagata, Trierweiler, & Talbot, 1999;Walters et al., 2011;Working Paper Yehuda et al., 2005). Addressing these associations will require multitasking across multiple levels of intervention, and such a broad deployment of effort is a hallmark of social work practice. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Dramatic health inequalities in the United States exist by race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, geography, sexual and gender identity, and socioeconomic status. Despite increased attention, our health system has made insufficient progress in reducing these disparities and creating greater health equity. Too little attention has focused on the social determinants of health—economic, social, and environmental factors—whereby health disparities take root, inequalities grow, and inequities reproduce. The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare believes that social work is well positioned to lead several multisectoral and transdisciplinary priorities for action to dramatically reduce inequities within one generation. Priorities for action include focusing on settings to improve conditions of daily life, advancing community empowerment for sustainable health, cultivating innovation in primary care, promoting full access to health care, generating innovations in research on social determinants of health inequities, fostering interprofessional workforce development, and stimulating multisectoral advocacy to promote health equity policies.
    Full-text · Technical Report · Jan 2016
    • "du stress chez ce dernier (Gowin et al., 2013 ;Neigh, Gillespie, & Nemeroff, 2009 ;Yehuda & Bierer, 2008). Au plan transgénérationnel, des altérations du HPA et des taux de cortisol plus bas ont été retrouvés chez les enfants de mères ayant vécu des sévices dans l'enfance – en particulier lorsque jumelés à d'autres psychopathologies (ÉSPT, dépression) ou facteurs de stress chez la mère (Brand et al., 2010) – suggérant que certains phénomènes épigénétiques corrélés aux situations de maltraitance à la première génération pourraient se transmettre à la suivante (Neigh et al., 2009). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Literature review on clinical issues with parents at risk of child abuse: targeting the generational factor? The prevalence of child abuse is higher in families with psychosocial vulnerabilities or when one or both parents experienced abuse or neglect during childhood. While the most widespread intervention approaches in Canada (e.g. material support or parenting skills programs) show mixed results in providing changes in mistreatment cycles, we examine clinical practice focused on generational repetition of trauma. In order to explore this topic, this paper has 4 objectives and will be supported by a narrative review of the literature: 1) to document the causalities of child maltreatment; 2) to identify the clinical challenges of struggling parents; 3) to develop a critical analysis of the intervention programs commonly spread in Canada; 4) to take into account multifaceted vulnerabilities of these families through innovative practice perspectives.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Pratiques Psychologiques
  • Source
    • "Studies show that the amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex, dopamine system, norepinephrin/epinephrine (adrenergic) system, HPA axis, hippocampus and corpus collosum, serotonin system, and endogenous opiate system are affected by trauma (Chu & Lieberman, 2010). Lower baseline cortisol levels have been found in the offspring of Holocaust survivors (Yehuda et al., 2007), and in the infants of mothers who had been abused as children (Brand et al., 2010), while higher cortisol levels were found in children currently experiencing PTSD symptoms (Carrion et al., 2002). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study investigated the prevalence and nature of traumatic events experienced by an ethnically diverse sample of Head Start preschoolers (ages 3-5), as rated by their caregivers (N=66), and how experiencing trauma varies by ethnicity. Traumatic impact as influenced by age at the event, number of events experienced (polyvictimization), and frequency of experiencing events is discussed. Eighty-five percent of children had experienced trauma. There were no ethnic differences in trauma prevalence. Caregivers rated traumatic impact as more severe for children who had experienced multiple types of events and for those who experienced traumatic events more frequently. Intervention implications are discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015
Show more