The Effects of Morning Naps, Car Trips, and Maternal Separation on Adrenocortical Activity in Human Infants

Mary C. Larson, Megan R Gunnar, Louise Hertsgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations

Abstract

3 studies of adrenocortical activity in healthy 9‐month‐old infants were conducted to examine unanticipated results obtained in previous research. In the first study, morning naps were examined and found to be associated with significant decreases in salivary cortisol. These decreases were followed by a significant return to prenap cortisol concentrations. In the second study, riding for 40 min in the car was also shown to significantly lower salivary cortisol concentrations. This effect was obtained both for infants who did and who did not sleep during the car trip. In the third study, the effect of 30 min of maternal separation in the laboratory on salivary cortisol was compared to the effect of 30 min of play with mother present. Separation resulted in significantly higher salivary cortisol concentrations as compared to play with mother present. In general, correlations between cortisol and behavior were found to be nonsignificant under conditions that did not produce stress elevations in cortisol, while less positive, more distressed behavior was significantly correlated with cortisol under separation or stress conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-372
Number of pages11
JournalChild development
Volume62
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1991

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