Effects of perinatal testosterone on infant health, mother-infant interactions, and infant development.
Many researchers and health care providers have noticed male vulnerability in infant health, mother-infant interactions, and some infant cognitive development, especially among very low birth weight (VLBW) preterm infants. However, factors beyond gender that could explain these observed differences have not been clear. The purpose of this article is to review the literature on the subject and to introduce a conceptual framework relating these factors.
According to gender-difference theories, prenatal exposure to high levels of testosterone may influence infant health and mother-infant interactions by negatively affecting infant cognitive/motor/language development. We constructed a conceptual framework based on the associations among biological (perinatal testosterone), stress-related (perinatal and maternal cortisol), and developmental (infant cognitive/motor/language skills) factors. If research establishes these biological, environmental, and developmental associations in mother-VLBW preterm pairs, the results will highlight the importance of addressing gender differences in nursing research and encourage the development of nursing interventions designed to reduce stress among mothers of VLBW preterm infants, particularly male infants.
From a psychobiosocial perspective, combining biophysiological factors such as perinatal testosterone and cortisol with socioenvironmental factors such as the quality of mother-infant interactions and infant temperament may provide a broader view of gender differences in infant health and development.
Cho, J; Holditch-Davis, D
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