Abstract OBJECTIVE: To assess the determinants of heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) in children. The autonomic nervous system as measured by HR and HRV is considered a biological marker of psychopathology in children. METHODS: We examined the relationship of maternal psychopathology with infant HR and HRV. HR was recorded at 14 months in 528 infants. The high-frequency component of HRV was used as an indicator of cardiac vagal modulation. The presence of a lifetime maternal psychiatric diagnosis was assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Presence of maternal psychiatric symptoms during pregnancy and 2 months after birth was assessed, using the Brief Symptom Inventory. RESULTS: A maternal history of a psychiatric disorder was associated with a 0.24-standard deviation (SD) higher mean HR in the infant (beta = 0.24, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 0.03, 0.4, p = .025) and a 0.14-SD lower high-frequency power (beta = -0.14, 95% CI = -0.6, -0.03, p = .003). Likewise, postnatal maternal anxiety and depression symptoms were associated with infant mean HR. A 1-point increase in the mean anxiety symptom score was associated with 0.14-SD higher mean HR in the infant (beta = 0.14, 95% CI = 0.05, 0.2, p = .004), and a 1-point increase in mean depression score with a 0.11-SD increase (beta = 0.11, 95% CI = 0.01, 0.2, p = .025). No significant associations of prenatal maternal affective symptoms with infants autonomic functioning were found. CONCLUSION: Maternal lifetime psychiatric diagnosis and postnatal psychiatric symptoms are associated with infant autonomic functioning, namely, higher mean HR and lower vagal modulation.

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Keywords *Infant Welfare, Adult, Anxiety Disorders/diagnosis/epidemiology/psychology, Cohort Studies, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Electrocardiography, Female, Heart Rate/*physiology, Humans, Maternal Behavior/*psychology, Mental Disorders/diagnosis/*epidemiology/*psychology, Prospective Studies, Puerperal Disorders/diagnosis/epidemiology/psychology, Questionnaires, Severity of Illness Index, Temperament, World Health Organization, infant
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0b013e318198a82c, hdl.handle.net/1765/21980
Journal Psychosomatic Medicine
Note Free full text at PubMed
Dierckx, B, Tulen, J.H.M, Lambregtse-van den Berg, M.P, Tharner, A, Jaddoe, V.W.V, Moll, H.A, … Tiemeier, H.W. (2009). Maternal Psychopathology Influences Infant Heart Rate Variability: Generation R Study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71(3), 313–321. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e318198a82c