Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed research will assess the model that affective disturbances of
infants and young children develop in the context of an interactive
relationship with the mother (caregiver). The mother serves as a
modulator, providing adequate stimulation and arousal modulation necessary
for the development of organized behavioral patterns and physiological
rhythms. If the mother is affectively unavailable (as in maternal
depression or maternal deprivation syndrome) or physically unavailable (as
in maternal separation), behavioral and physiological disorganization will
occur, manifested by asynchrony in the mothers' and infants' rhythms and by
disturbances in affective and vegetative functions. Maternal deprivation
effects will be studied in several samples including infants of depressed
mothers (prepartum, postpartum and prepartum/postpartum depression) and
non-organic failure-to-thrive infants of depriving mothers as compared to
normal mothers and infants. The maternal separation groups will include:
a. infants/young children separated for hospitalization; b. separation
surrounding mothers' conference travel; and repeated separations related to
c. commuter parenting and d. joint custody. These situations will be
studied in a repeated measures design (baseline/separation/reunion). The
coherence/synchrony of affective behavior, activity level and heart rate
rhythms of these mothers and infants will be investigated in the context of
their early interactions. The generalizability of the infants' affective
disturbances across interaction partners and the emergence and chronicity
of the disturbance will be determined in a longitudinal design. Changes in
vegetative functions will be monitored including changes in sleep cycles,
eating, elimination and illness. Biochemical activity will be assayed
including catecholamines and their metabolites (NE,E,MHPG,VMA), cortisol
and growth hormone. Finally, individual differences in the mothers' and
infants' affective styles (externalizer/internalizer), temperament and
coping styles (active/passive) will be investigated. This research will
hopefully provide a model for the psychophysiology of early affective
disturbances and enhance our understanding of the neurohormonal mechanisms
underlying affective disturbances in infants and young children
experiencing maternal depression, deprivation and separation.
Effective start/end date1/1/908/31/90


  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • National Institute of Mental Health


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