Maternal panic disorder: Infant temperament, neurophysiology, and parenting behaviors

Susan L. Warren, Megan R. Gunnar, Jerome Kagan, Thomas F. Anders, Samuel J. Simmens, Michelle Rones, Stephen Wease, Emily Aron, Ronald E. Dahl, L. Alan Sroufe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine whether 4- and 14-month-old infants of mothers with panic disorder (PD) would be more likely to show differences in temperament, neurophysiology (salivary cortisol and sleep), and relationships with their mothers than controls. Method: Two cohorts were recruited: 4-month-old infants with PD mothers (n = 25) and 4-month-old controls (n = 24), and 14-month-old infants with PD mothers (n = 27) and 14-month-old controls (n = 18). Mothers completed diagnostic interviews and questionnaires concerning infant temperament, sleep, and parenting. Infant salivary cortisol samples and standard observational procedures to measure infant temperament, sleep, attachment, and parenting were also used. Results: Infants with PD mothers did not show more high reactivity, behavioral inhibition, or ambivalent/ resistant attachment but did demonstrate different neurophysiology (higher salivary cortisol and more disturbed sleep) than controls. PD mothers also displayed less sensitivity toward their infants and reported parenting behaviors concerning infant sleep and discipline that have been associated with child problems. Conclusions: While infants with PD mothers did not show early behavioral differences from controls, they did display neurophysiological divergences consistent with higher arousal/arousability. Such neurophysiological divergences (elevated salivary cortisol and disturbed sleep) might be important early indicators of risk. Helping PD mothers parent their more highly aroused/arousable infants could reduce the development of psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)814-825
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2003


  • Infant
  • Neurophysiology
  • Panic disorder
  • Parenting
  • Temperament


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