Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Social influences on early developing biological and behavioral systems related to risk for affective disorder

  • Geraldine Dawson (a1), David Hessl (a1) and Karin Frey (a1)

Abstract

Dramatic changes take place in the neural physiology and emotional behavior of the human infant during the first 2 years of life. Evidence suggests that certain variations in the infant's early social environment, such as disturbances in mother-infant interaction that are associated with maternal depression, influence the development of biological systems related to the expression and regulation of emotion, particularly those systems involved in frontal lobe, autonomic, and adrenocortical functioning. In this essay, we provide an overview of the links between maternal depression and disruptions in early social and emotional development, and we highlight parallels between disturbances in biological systems found in depressed adults and those found in infants of mothers experiencing depression. We then discuss the possibility of sensitive periods for the enduring influences of maternal depression on the emotional development of these children and for increased risk for affective disorder. Finally, we point to directions for further research on the nature of the intergenerational transmission of emotional disturbance.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Geraldine Dawson, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.

References

Hide All
Ainsworth, M. D. S., Bleher, M. C., Waters, I., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the Strange Situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Alpern, L., & Lyons-Ruth, K. (1993). Preschool children at social risk: Chronicity and timing of maternal depressive symptoms and child behavior at school and at home. Development and Psychopathology, 5, 371387.
Baxter, L. R., Schwartz, J. M., Phelps, M. E., Mazziotta, J. C., Guze, B. H., Selin, C. E., Gerner, R. H., & Sumida, R. M. (1989). Reduction in prefrontal cortex glucose metabolism common to three types of depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 46, 243250.
Bell, M. A., & Fox, N. A. (1994). Brain development over the first year of life: Relations between EEG frequency and coherence and cognitive and affective behaviors. In Dawson, G. & Fischer, K. (Eds.), Human behavior and the developing brain (pp. 314345). New York: Guilford Press.
Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment to loss: Vol. 2. Separation. New York: Basic Books.
Brazelton, T. B. (1982). Joint regulation of neonateparent behavior. In Tronick, E. (Ed.), Social interchange in infancy. Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.
Chugani, H. T. (1994). Developmental aspects of regional brain glucose metabolism, behavior and plasticity. In Dawson, G. & Fischer, K. (Eds.), Human behavior and the developing brain (pp. 153175). New York: Guilford Press.
Chugani, H. T., & Phelps, M. E. (1986). Maturational changes in cerebral function in infants determined by 18FDG positron emission tomography. Science, 231, 840843.
Chugani, H. T., Phelps, M. E., & Mazziotta, J. C. (1987). Positron emission tomography study of human brain functional development. Annals of Neurology, 22, 487497.
Cicchetti, D., Ganiban, J., & Barnett, D. (1991). Contributions from the study of high risk populations to understanding the development of emotion regulation. In Dodge, K. & Garber, J. (Eds.), The development of emotion regulation (pp. 1548). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cicchetti, D., & Schneider-Rosen, K. (1986). An organizational approach to childhood depression. In Rutter, M., Izard, C. E., & Read, P. B. (Eds.), Depression in young people: Developmental and clinical perspectives (pp. 71134). New York: Guilford Press.
Clarke, A. S. (1993). Prenatal stress has long-term effects on behavioral responses to stress in juvenile rhesus monkeys. Developmental Psychobiology, 26, 293304.
Coe, C. L., & Levine, S. (1981). Normal responses to mother-infant separation in nonhuman primates. In Klein, D. F. & Rabkin, J. G. (Eds.), Anxiety: New research and changing concepts (pp. 154177). New York: Raven Press.
Coghill, S. R., Caplan, H. L., Alexandra, H., Robson, K., & Kumar, R. (1986). Impact of maternal postnatal depression on cognitive development of young children. British Medical Journal, 292, 11651167.
Cohn, J. F., Campbell, S. B., Matias, R., & Hopkins, J. (1990). Face-to-face interactions of postpartum depressed and nondepressed mother-infant pairs at 2 months. Developmental Psychology, 26, 1523.
Cohn, J. F., Matias, R., Tronick, E. Z., Connell, D., & Lyons-Ruth, D. (1986). Face-to-face interactions of depressed mothers and their infants. In Tronick, E. Z. & Field, T. (Eds.), Maternal depression and infant disturbance (pp. 3145). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cohn, J. F., & Tronick, E. Z. (1983). Three-month-old infants' reaction to simulated maternal depression. Child Development, 54, 185193.
Cohn, J. F., & Tronick, E. Z. (1989). Specificity of infants' response to mothers' affective behavior. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 28, 242248.
Cummings, E. M., & Cicchetti, D. (1990). Toward a transactional model of relations between attachment and depression. In Greenberg, M. T., Cicchetti, D., & Cummings, E. M. (Eds.), Attachment in the preschool years: Theory, research, and intervention (pp. 339372). Chicago: University of Chicago.
Davidson, R. J. (1994). Temperament, affective style, and frontal lobe asymmetry. In Dawson, G. & Fischer, K. (Eds.), Human behavior and the developing brain (pp. 518536). New York: Guilford Press.
Davidson, R. J. (1984a). Affect, cognition and hemispheric specialization. In Izard, C. E., Kagan, J., & Zajonc, R. (Eds.), Emotion, cognition and behavior (pp. 320365). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Davidson, R. J. (1984b). Hemispheric asymmetry and emotion. In Scherer, K. & Ekman, P. (Eds.), Approaches to emotion (pp. 3957). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Davidson, R. J. (1987). Cerebral asymmetry and the nature of emotion: Implications for the study of individual differences and psychopathology. In Takahashi, R., Flor-Henry, P., Gruzelier, J., & Niwa, S. (Eds.), Cerebral dynamics, laterally, and psychopathology (pp. 7183). New York: Elsevier.
Davidson, R. J., Ekman, P., Saron, C., Senulis, R., & Friesen, W. V. (1990). Approach-withdrawal and cerebral asymmetry: Emotional expression and brain physiology I. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 330341.
Davidson, R. J., & Fox, N. A. (1982). Asymmetrical brain activity discriminates between positive versus negative affective stimuli in human infants. Science, 218, 12351237.
Davidson, R. J., & Fox, N. A. (1988). Cerebral asymmetry and emotion: Development and individual differences. In Segalowitz, S. & Molfese, D. (Eds.), Developmental implications of brain lateralization (pp. 191206). New York: Guilford Press.
Davidson, R. J., & Fox, N. A. (1989). Frontal brain asymmetry predicts infants' response to maternal separation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 98, 127131.
Dawson, G. (1994). Development of emotional expression and emotion regulation in infancy: Contributions of the frontal lobe. In Dawson, G. & Fischer, K. (Eds.), Human behavior and the developing brain (pp. 346379). New York: Guilford Press.
Dawson, G. (in press). Frontal electroencephalographic correlates of individual differences in emotional expression in infants: A brain system perspective on emotion. In Fox, N. A. (Ed.), Emotion regulation: Behavioral and biological considerations. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Dawson, G., Grofer Klinger, L., Panagiotides, H., Hill, D., & Spieker, S. (1992). Frontal lobe activity and affective behavior of infants of mothers with depressive symptoms. Child Development, 63, 725737.
Dawson, G., Grofer Klinger, L., Panagiotides, H., Spieker, S., & Frey, K. (1992). Infants of mothers with depressive symptoms: Electrophysiological and behavioral findings related to attachment status. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 6780.
Dawson, G., Panagiotides, H., Grofer Klinger, L., & Hill, D. (1992). The role of frontal lobe functioning in the development of self-regulatory behavior in infancy. Brain and Cognition, 20, 152175.
Dawson, G., Panagiotides, H., Grofer Klinger, L., & Spieker, S. (1994). Infants of depressed mothers display atypical patterns of frontal brain activity during negative emotions. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Diamond, A. (1990). Developmental time course in human infants and infant monkeys, and the neural bases of inhibitory control in reaching. In Diamond, A. (Ed.), The development of and neural bases of higher cognitive functions. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 608, 267317.
Downey, G., & Coyne, J. (1990). Children of depressed parents: An integrative review. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 5076.
Drevets, W. C., Videen, T. O., Price, J. L., Preskorn, S. H., Carmichael, S. T., & Raichle, M. E. (1991). A functional anatomical study of unipolar depression. The Journal of Neuroscience, 12, 36283641.
Edelman, G. M. (1987). Neural Darwinism: The theory of neuronal group selection. New York: Basic Books.
Edelman, G. M. (1989). The remembered present: A biological theory of consciousness. New York: Basic Books.
Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1984). EM-FACS coding manual. San Francisco: Consulting Psychology Press.
Erickson, M., Sroufe, L. A., & Egeland, B. (1985). The relationship between quality of attachment and behavior problems in preschool in a high-risk sample. In Bretherton, I. & Waters, E. (Eds.), Growing points of attachment theory and research. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1–2, Serial No. 290), 147166.
Field, T. (1981). Infant gaze aversion and heart rate during face-to-face interactions. Infant Behavior and Development, 7, 527532.
Field, T. (1986). Models for reactive and chronic depression in infancy. In Tronick, E. Z. & Field, T. (Eds.), Maternal depression and infant disturbance (No. 34, pp. 4760). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Field, T. (1992). Infants of depressed mothers. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 4966.
Field, T., Healy, B., Goldstein, S., & Guthertz, M. (1990). Behavior-state matching and synchrony in mother-infant interactions of non-depressed versus depressed dyads. Developmental Psychology, 26, 714.
Field, T., Healy, B., Goldstein, S., Perry, S., Bendall, D., Schanberg, S., Zimmerman, E., & Kuhn, C. (1988). Infants of depressed mothers show “depressed” behavior even with non-depressed adults. Child Development, 59, 15691579.
Field, T., Sandberg, D., Garcia, R., Vega-Lahr, N., Goldstein, S., & Guy, L. (1985). Prenatal problems, postpartum depression, and early mother-infant interactions. Developmental Psychology, 12, 11521156.
Finman, R., Davidson, R. J., Colton, M. B., Straus, A. M., & Kagan, J. (1989). Psychophysiological correlates of inhibition to the unfamiliar in children (abstract). Psychophysiology, 26 (No. 4A, S24).
Fox, N. A. (1991). If it's not left, it's right: Electroencephalography asymmetry and the development of emotion. American Psychologist, 46, 863872.
Fox, N. A., & Davidson, R. J. (1986). Taste-elicited changes in facial signs of emotion and the asymmetry of brain electrical activity in human newborns. Neuropsychologia, 24, 417422.
Fox, N. A., & Davidson, R. J. (1987). Electroencephalogram asymmetry in response to the approach of a stranger and maternal separation. Developmental Psychology, 23, 233240.
Fox, N. A., & Davidson, R. J. (1988). Patterns of brain electrical activity during facial signs of emotion in 10-month-old infants. Developmental Psychology, 24, 230236.
Fox, N. A., & Fitzgerald, H. E. (1990). Autonomic function in infancy. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 36, 2752.
Frankenhaeuser, M. (1980). Psychbbiological aspects of life stress. In Levine, S. & Ursin, H. (Eds.), Coping and health. New York: Plenum Press.
Fuster, J. M. (1989). Theprefrontalcortex: Anatomy, physiology, and neuropsychology of the frontal lobe. New York: Raven Press.
Gainotti, G. (1969). Reactions “Catatrophiques” et manifestations d'indifference au cours des atteintes cerebrais. Neuropsychologia, 7, 195204.
Gainotti, G. (1972). Emotional behavior and hemispheric side of lesion. Cortex, 8, 4155.
Ghodsian, M., Zajicek, E., & Wolkind, S. (1984). A longitudinal study of maternal depression and child behavior problems. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 25, 91109.
Goldman-Rakic, P. S. (1987). Circuitry of primate prefrontal cortex and regulation of behavior by representational memory. Handbook of physiology. Sect. 1: The nervous system. Vol. V: Higher functions of the brain (pp. 373417). Bethesda, MD: American Physiological Society.
Grunebaum, H. U., Cohler, B. J., Kaufman, C., & Gallant, D. H. (1978). Children of depressed and schizophrenic mothers. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 8, 219228.
Hebb, D. O. (1949). The organization of behavior: A neuropsychological theory. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Henriques, J. B., & Davidson, R. J. (1990). Regional brain electrical asymmetries discriminate between previously depressed subjects and healthy controls. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 2231.
Hertsgaard, C., Gunnar, M., Larson, M., & Broderson, L. (1992). First time experiences in infancy: When they appear to be pleasant, do they activate the adrenocortical stress response? Developmental Psychobiology, 25, 319333.
Huttenlocher, P., de Courten, C., Garey, L. J., & van der Loos, H. (1982). Synaptogenesis in human visual cortex —Evidence for synapse elimination during normal development. Neuroscience Letters, 33, 247252.
Huttenlocher, P. R. (1979). Synaptic density in human frontal cortex — Developmental changes and effects of aging. Brain Research, 163, 195205.
Huttenlocher, P. R. (1994). Synaptogenesis in human cerebral cortex. In Dawson, G. & Fischer, K. (Eds.), Human behavior and the developing brain (pp. 137152). New York: Guilford Press.
Jones, B. M., & Mishkin, M. (1972). Limbic lesions and the problem of stimulus reinforcement association. Experimental Neurology, 36, 362377.
Kolb, B. (1989). Brain development, plasticity, and behavior. American Psychologist, 44, 12031212.
Kopp, C. B. (1989). Regulation of distress and negative emotions: A developmental view. Developmental Psychology, 25, 343354.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.
LeDoux, J. E. (1987). Emotion. In Plum, F. (Ed.), Handbook of physiology. Sect. I: The nervous system. Vol. V: Higher functions of the brain (pp. 419460). Bethesda, MD: American Physiological Society.
LeDoux, J. E. (1989). Cognitive-emotional interactions in the brain. Cognition and Emotion, 3, 267290.
Levine, S., Johnson, D. F., & Gonzalez, C. A. (1985). Behavioral and hormonal responses to separation in infant and rhesus monkeys and mothers. Behavioral Neuroscience, 99, 399410.
Levy, J., Heller, W., Banich, M. T., & Burton, L. A. (1983). Are variations among right-handed individuals in perceptual asymmetries caused by characteristic arousal differences between hemispheres? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 9, 329359.
Main, M., & Solomon, J. (1990). Procedures for identifying infants as disorganized/disoriented during the Ainsworth Strange Situation. In Greenberg, M. T. & Cicchetti, D. (Eds.), Attachment in the preschool years (pp. 121160). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Malatesta, C. Z., & Haviland, J. M. (1982). Learning display rules: The socialization of emotion expression in infancy. Child Development, 53, 9911003.
McCabe, P. M., & Schneiderman, N. (1988). Psychophysiologic reactions to stress. In Field, T. M., McCabe, P. M., & Schneiderman, N. (Eds.), Stress and coping across development (pp. 99131). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Merzenich, M. M., Nelson, R. J., Stryker, M. P., Cynader, M., Schoppman, A., & Zook, J. M. (1984). Somatosensory cortical map changes following digit amputation in adult monkeys. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 224, 591605.
Nowak, R. (1991). Windows on the brain: Cortisol secretion and depression. The Journal of NIH Research, 3, 6267.
Orvaschel, H., Welsh-Allis, G., & Weijai, Y. (1988). Psychopathology in children of parents with recurrent depression. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 16, 1728.
Porges, S. W., McCabe, P. M., & Yongue, B. G. (1982). Respiratory-heart rate interactions: Psychophysiological implications for pathophysiology and behavior. In Cacippo, J. T. & Petty, R. E. (Eds.), Perspectives in cardiovascularpsychophysiology (pp. 223264). New York: Guilford Press.
Radke-Yarrow, M., Cummings, E. M., Kuczynski, L., & Chapman, J. (1985). Patterns of attachment in two- and three-year-olds in normal families and families with parental depression. Child Development, 56, 884893.
Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385401.
Redding, R. E., Harmon, R. J., & Morgan, G. A. (1990). Relationships between maternal depression and infants' mastery behaviors. Infant Behavior and Development, 13, 391395.
Robinson, R. G., & Benson, D. F. (1981). Depression in aphasic patients: Frequency, severity and clinical-pathological correlations. Brain and Language, 14, 282291.
Robinson, R. G., Kubos, K. L., Starr, L. B., Reo, K., & Price, T. R. (1984). Mood disorders in stroke patients: Importance of location of lesion. Brain, 107, 8193.
Robinson, R. G., & Stetela, B. (1981). Mood change following left hemispheric brain injury. Annals of Neurology, 9, 447453.
Sapolsky, R. M., Krey, L. C., & McEwen, B. S. (1986). The neuroendocrinology of stress and aging: The glucocorticoid cascade hypothesis. Endocrinology Review, 7, 284.
Scaife, M., & Bruner, J. S. (1975). The capacity for joint visual attention in the infant. Nature (London), 253, 265266.
Schaffer, C. E., Davidson, R. V., & Saron, C. (1983). Frontal and parietal electroencephalogram asymmetry in depressed and non-depressed subjects. Biological Psychiatry, 18, 753762.
Schneider, M. L. (1992a). Delayed object permanence development in prenatally stressed rhesus monkey infants. The Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, 12, 96110.
Schneider, M. L. (1992b). Prenatal stress exposure alters postnatal behavior expression under conditions of novelty challenge in rhesus monkey infants. Developmental Psychobiology, 25, 141152.
Schneider, M. L. (1992c). The effect of mild stress during pregnancy on birth weight and neuromotor maturation in rhesus monkey infants. Infant Behavior and Development, 15, 389403.
Silberman, E. K., & Weingartner, H. (1986). Hemispheric lateralization of functions related to emotion. Brain and Cognition, 5, 322353.
Spangler, G., & Grossman, K. E. (1993). Biobehavioral organisation in securely and insecurely attached infants. Child Development, 64(5), 14391450.
Spitzer, R. L., Williams, J. B., Gibbon, M., & First, M. (1989). Structured Clinical Interview for DSMIII-R (with psychotic screen). New York: Biometric Research Department, New York State Psychiatric Institute.
Steriade, M. (1981). EEC desynchronization is associated with cellular events that are prerequisites for active behavioral states. Commentary on “reticulocortical activity and behavior: A critique of the arousal theory and a new synthesis” by Vanderwolf, C. H. & Robinson, T. E.. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4, 489492.
Stern, D. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant. New York: Basic Books.
Stifter, C. A., & Moyer, D. (1991). The regulation of positive affect: Gaze aversion activity during mother-infant interaction. Infant Behavior and Development, 14, 111123.
Stoller, E., & Field, T. (1982). Alteration of mother and infant behavior and heart rate during still-face interaction. In Field, T. & Fogel, A. (Eds.), Emotion and early interactions. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Tronick, E. Z. (1989). Emotions and emotional communication in infants. American Psychologist, 44, 112119.
Tronick, E. Z., & Gianino, A. F. (1986). The transmission of maternal disturbances to the infant. In Tronick, E. Z. & Field, T. (Eds.), Maternal depression and infant disturbance (pp. 511). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Tucker, D. M. (1981). Lateral brain function, emotion and conceptualization. Psychological Bulletin, 89, 1946.
Tucker, D. M., & Williamson, P. A. (1984). Asymmetric neural control systems in human self regulation. Psychological Review, 91, 185215.
Weiss, J. (1972). Influence of psychological variables on stress induced pathology. Physiology, Emotion, and Psychosomatic Illness, Ciba Foundation Symposium, 8, 253265.
Whiffen, V. E., Gotlib, I. M. (1989). Infants of postpartum depressed mothers: Temperament and cognitive status. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 98, 274279.
Wolkind, S. N., Zajicek-Coleman, E., & Ghodsian, M. (1980). Continuities in maternal depression. International Journal of Family Psychiatry, 1, 167182.
Young, E. A., Haskett, R. F., Murphy-Weinberg, V., Watson, S. J., & Akil, H. (1991). Loss of glucocorticoid fast feedback in depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 48, 693.
Zahn-Waxler, C., Cummings, E. M., McKnew, D. H., & Radke-Yarrow, J. (1984). Problem behaviors and peer interactions of young children with a manic-depressive parent. American Journal of Psychiatry, 141, 236240.
Zuckerman, B., Als, H., Bauchner, H., Parker, S., & Cabral, H. (1990). Maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy and newborn irritability. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 11, 190194.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed