Effects of Maternal Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) on the Stress Mechanisms of Offspring – A Proposed Study
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Offspring can have an increased predisposition towards adverse health outcomes if their parents had been exposed to chronic stress. Maternal chronic stress in the form of intimate partner violence (IPV) can alter stress responses mechanisms such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in offspring through fetal programming. The proposed study aims to perform a mediation analysis of five pathways between four variables. It will examine: 1) the relationship between maternal exposure to IPV during third trimester pregnancy and cortisol reactivity in 11-13 month old infants. 2) If IPV increases maternal susceptibility towards detrimental mental health such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. 3) The potential mediating role of negative maternal mental health on HPA axis dysregulation in offspring. 4) The role of detrimental maternal mental health on methylation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene in offspring. 5) If the methylation status of the GR gene in offspring is associated with the infant’s stress response. In the case of expected mediation, maternal exposure to IPV would be associated with increased cortisol reactivity in infants, which is indicative of a dysregulated HPA axis. Negative maternal mental health would be partially mediated by IPV experience and contribute to increased cortisol profiles in offspring. Furthermore, negative maternal mental health would also be linked to increased methylation in the GR gene of offspring. The increased methylation would further be associated with infant cortisol reactivity and be partially mediated by maternal mental health and maternal IPV exposure.