Autonomic functioning in mothers with interpersonal violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder in response to separation-reunion

Daniel S. Schechter, Dominik A. Moser, Jaime E. Mccaw, Michael M. Myers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study characterizes autonomic nervous system activity reactive to separation-reunion among mothers with Interpersonal Violence-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (IPV-PTSD). Heart-rate (HR) and high frequency heart-rate-variability (HF-HRV) were measured in 17 IPV-PTSD-mothers, 22 sub-threshold-mothers, and 15 non-PTSD mother-controls while interacting with their toddlers (12-48 months). Analyses showed IPV-PTSD-mothers having generally lower HR than other groups. All groups showed negative correlations between changes in HR and HF-HRV from sitting- to standing-baseline. During initial separation, controls no longer showed a negative relationship between HR and HF-HRV. But by the second reunion, the negative relationship reappeared. IPV-PTSD- and sub-threshold-mothers retained negative HR/HF-HRV correlations during the initial separation, but stopped showing them by the second reunion. Results support that mother-controls showed a pattern of autonomic regulation suggestive of hypervigilance during initial separation that resolved by the time of re-exposure. PTSD-mothers showed delayed onset of this pattern only upon re-exposure, and were perhaps exhibiting defensive avoidance or numbing during the initial separation/reunion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)748-760
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Volume56
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Co-activation
  • Emotion regulation
  • Heart-rate
  • Heart-rate variability
  • Interpersonal violence
  • Maternal PTSD
  • Parenting
  • Stress physiology

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