Prenatal stress, partner support, and infant cortisol reactivity in low-income Mexican American families

Linda Luecken, Betty Lin, Shayna S. Coburn, David Mackinnon, Nancy Gonzales, Keith Crnic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Maternal exposure to significant prenatal stress can negatively affect infant neurobiological development and increase the risk for developmental and health disturbances. These effects may be pronounced in low SES and ethnic minority families. We explored prenatal partner support as a buffer of the impact of prenatal stress on cortisol reactivity of infants born to low-income Mexican American women. Women (N= 220; age 18-42; 84% Spanish-speaking; 89% foreign born; modal family income $10,000-$15,000) reported on economic stress and satisfaction with spousal/partner support during the prenatal period (26-38 weeks gestation), and infant salivary cortisol reactivity to mildly challenging mother-infant interaction tasks was assessed at women's homes at six weeks postpartum. Multilevel models estimated the interactive effect of prenatal stress and partner support on cortisol reactivity, controlling for covariates and potential confounds. Infants born to mothers who reported high prenatal stress and low partner support exhibited higher cortisol reactivity relative to those whose mothers reported high support or low stress. The effects did not appear to operate through birth outcomes. For low-income Mexican American women, partner support may buffer the impact of prenatal stress on infant cortisol reactivity, potentially promoting more adaptive infant health and development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3092-3101
Number of pages10
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Infant cortisol
  • Partner support
  • Prenatal stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Prenatal stress, partner support, and infant cortisol reactivity in low-income Mexican American families'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this