Published:  2018-06

Maternal verbally aggressive behavior in early infancy is associated with blood pressure at age 5–6

Authors:  L. J. C. A. Smarius, T. G. A. Strieder, T. a. H. Doreleijers, T. G. M. Vrijkotte, S. R. de Rooij

Tags:  blood pressure, early life stress, infancy, maternal verbal aggressive behavior, verbal abuse

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Early life stress has been shown to contribute to alterations in biobehavioral regulation. Whereas many different forms of childhood adversities have been studied in relation to cardiovascular outcomes, very little is known about potential associations between caregivers’ verbally aggressive behavior and heart rate and blood pressure in the child. This prospective study examined whether maternal verbally aggressive behavior in early infancy is associated with heart rate or blood pressure at age 5–6. In the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development study, a large prospective, population-based birth cohort, maternal verbally aggressive behavior was assessed by questionnaire in the 13th week after birth. The child’s blood pressure and heart rate were measured during rest at age 5–6 (n=2553 included). Maternal verbally aggressive behavior in infancy was associated with a higher systolic blood pressure (SBP) both in supine and sitting position after adjustment for sex, height and age (SBP supine B=1.01 mmHg; 95% CI [0.06; 1.95] and SPB sitting B=1.29 mmHg; 95% CI [0.12; 2.46]). Adjustment for potential confounding variables, such as other mother–infant dyad aspects, family hypertension and child’s BMI, only slightly attenuated the associations (SBP supine B=0.99 mmHg; 95% CI [0.06; 1.93] and SPB sitting B=1.11 mmHg; 95% CI [−0.06; 2.27]). Maternal verbally aggressive behavior was not associated with diastolic blood pressure or heart rate at age 5–6. Maternal verbally aggressive behavior might be an important early life stressor with negative impact on blood pressure later in life, which should be further investigated. Possible underlying mechanisms are discussed.