Oxytocin has been a hormone of interest in understanding both depression and parenting. Here, the role of oxytocin has been explored in understanding the interaction between perinatal depression, history of trauma and subsequent longer-term child socio-emotional outcomes. Data were obtained from 203 pregnant women from the Mercy Pregnancy and Emotional Wellbeing Study (MPEWS), a pregnancy cohort study with data collected across pregnancy, postpartum and until 4 years for mother and child. Maternal antenatal depression was measured using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID-IV) together with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire to measure maternal trauma history. Maternal oxytocin levels were measured by enzyme immunoassay following extraction at four time points across pregnancy and the postpartum. The offspring consisted of 203 children followed up from birth until 4 years of age when they were assessed for DSM 5 depression and anxiety disorders (emotional disorders) using the Preschool Age Psychiatric Assessment. Maternal oxytocin levels increased over pregnancy and the postpartum in both control and depressed women with no difference between groups. Maternal childhood trauma and antenatal antidepressant use was also not associated with maternal oxytocin levels. Lower gestational age, maternal depression and early childhood trauma, and late pregnancy oxytocin concentrations were associated with later childhood emotional disorders; together they predicted 10% of variance for emotional disorders. Oxytocin is a hormone whose role in understanding intergenerational risk from pregnancy to child emotional disorders is dependent on relational context. Future research can expand on understanding these important early predictors of childhood mental health.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.07.010, hdl.handle.net/1765/129824
Journal of Psychiatric Research
Department of Psychology

Galbally, M. (Megan), Watson, S.J. (Stuart J.), Keelan, J. (Jeff), MacMillan, K.K. (Kelli K.), Power, J. (Josephine), IJzendoorn, M.V. (Marinus van), & Lewis, A.J. (Andrew J.). (2020). Maternal perinatal depression, circulating oxytocin levels and childhood emotional disorders at 4 years of age: The importance of psychosocial context. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 130, 247–253. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.07.010