Psychobiological and psychosocial effects of childhood maltreatment on women during transition into motherhood and their newborns [thesis]

Katharina Schury, Universität Ulm
Transition into motherhood is a special time in the life of a woman, which is accompanied by joy but also by significant changes in (daily) life, adaption to the role as a mother, and is related to increased vulnerability for psychosocial problems. Women with a history of childhood maltreatment (CM) may face particular challenges during the transition into motherhood. Furthermore, maladaptive processes during this sensitive period can influence the next generation, for example, by affecting the
more » ... mother's caregiving competences or via (direct) biological pathways. Thus, this thesis aims at contributing to our understanding of the consequences of CM in women during the transition into parenthood and potential transgenerational effects. A broad perspective of risk and protective factors on the psychological, social, and biological level is considered. Research on physiological alterations in individuals with a history of CM is a growing field. Study I reviews the current knowledge on several physiological systems that may be involved in the etiology of CM-related health problems throughout life. Findings on transgenerational effects of CM and the involvement of epigenetic processes are discussed. Addressing shortcomings of prior research regarding hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity after CM, Study II investigated HPA axis regulation at the end of pregnancy in women and their offspring. Cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), two important steroid hormones that reflect HPA axis regulation, were analyzed in hair of postpartum women and their newborns, reflecting cumulative concentrations of these steroids at the end of pregnancy. In contrast to previous studies, maltreatment load (i.e., rising number of CM experiences) was associated with elevated levels of DHEA but not of cortisol in the last trimester of pregnancy. However, HPA axis regulation during pregnancy undergoes significant physiological alterations, which may explain the differing results. Moreover, maternal maltreatment load was also ass [...]
doi:10.18725/oparu-4451 fatcat:qcqepfsg3nfmvkip3wywkozmam