Early maternal and paternal caregiving moderates the links between preschoolers' reactivity and regulation and maturation of the HPA-immune axis

Eyal Abraham, Orna Zagoory-Sharon, Ruth Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

While early caregiving and child's temperamental dispositions work in concert to shape social-emotional outcomes, their unique and joint contribution to the maturation of the child's stress and immune systems remain unclear. We followed children longitudinally from infancy to preschool to address the buffering effect of early parenting on the link between temperamental dysregulation and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA)-immune axis in preschool-aged children. Participants included 47 typically developing children and their 94 parents in both mother-father and two-father families followed across the first 4-years of family formation. In infancy, we observed parent-infant synchrony and measured parental oxytocin; in preschool, we observed temperamental reactivity and self-regulation and assessed children's cortisol and secretory Immunoglobulin A (s-IgA), biomarkers of the stress and immune systems. Greater self-regulation and lower negative emotionality were associated with lower baseline s-IgA and cortisol, respectively. However, these links were defined by interactive effects so that preschoolers with low self-regulation displayed higher s-IgA levels only in cases of low parent-infant synchrony and negative emotionality linked with greater baseline cortisol levels only when parental oxytocin levels were low. Results emphasize the long-term stress-buffering role of the neurobiology of parental care, demonstrate comparable developmental paths for mothers and fathers, and delineate the complex developmental cascades to the maturation of children's stress-management systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1482-1498
Number of pages17
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Volume63
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC

Funding

This study was supported by Israel-German Foundation Grant 1114-101.4/2010 (to R.F.) This study was supported by Israel‐German Foundation Grant 1114‐101.4/2010 (to R.F.)

FundersFunder number
Israel-German Foundation
Israel‐German Foundation1114‐101.4/2010

    Keywords

    • longitudinal studies
    • oxytocin
    • self-regulation
    • stress
    • synchrony
    • temperament

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