Maternal Trait Anxiety Predicts Infant Stress Reactivity via Caregiving Behaviors

Aran, Özlü
Maternal caregiving behaviors are one of the most important factors preparing the infant to life outside. So far quality of maternal sensitivity has been found to shape stress reactivity of infants through biological changes in brain regions related to stress in the rat. That is, an intergenerational transmission of stress reactivity from mother to infants occurs by means of maternal sensitivity. Studies with human mother-infant dyads, although limited, imply a similar relationship. Hence, the current study aims to investigate if the link between maternal anxiety and infant stress reactivity is mediated by maternal sensitivity in infants between the ages of 8 and 13 months. Sixty mother-infant dyads participated in the study. All participants were visited at home setting for approximately 3 hours. Maternal anxiety was measured with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and infant stress reactivity with soothability and falling reactivity subscales of the Infant Behavior Questionnaire (IBQ). Maternal sensitivity was assessed with the Maternal Behavior Q-Set (MBQS) following naturalistic observations. The results demonstrated that while maternal trait anxiety predicted infant stress reactivity, maternal sensitivity did not. Rather than global sensitivity, specific caregiving behaviors related to infant soothability and reactivity mediated the relationship between maternal trait anxiety and infant stress reactivity. Therefore, results indicated that an intergenerational transmission of stress reactivity through caregiving behaviors might be present in humans as well. Future studies should further investigate this issue via observational and biological measures of infant stress reactivity.


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Citation Formats
Ö. Aran, “Maternal Trait Anxiety Predicts Infant Stress Reactivity via Caregiving Behaviors,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2015.