Prenatal substance exposure, early-life adversity, and parenting: Associations with adolescent stress response. Academic Article uri icon


  • We tested a conceptual model examining associations between prenatal substance exposure and adolescent cortisol reactivity profiles in response to an acute social evaluative stressor. We included cortisol reactivity in infancy, and direct and interactive effects of early-life adversity and parenting behaviors (sensitivity, harshness) from infancy to early school age on adolescent cortisol reactivity profiles in model testing. Participants were 216 families (51% female children; 116 cocaine-exposed) recruited at birth, oversampled for prenatal substance exposure, and assessed from infancy to early adolescence (EA). Majority of participants self-identified as Black (72% mothers, 57.2% adolescents), and caregivers were primarily from low-income families (76%), were single (86%), and had high school or below education (70%) at recruitment. Latent profile analyses identified three cortisol reactivity patterns including elevated (20.4%), moderate (63.1%), and blunted (16.5%) reactivity groups. Prenatal tobacco exposure was associated with higher likelihood of membership in the elevated reactivity compared to the moderate reactivity group. Higher caregiver sensitivity in early life was associated with lower likelihood of membership in the elevated reactivity group. Prenatal cocaine exposure was associated with higher maternal harshness. Interaction effects among early-life adversity and parenting indicated that caregiver sensitivity buffered, and harshness exacerbated, the likelihood that high early adversity would be associated with the elevated and blunted reactivity groups. Results highlight the potential importance of prenatal alcohol and tobacco exposure for cortisol reactivity and the role of parenting as exacerbating or buffering the impact of early-life adversity on adolescent stress response.

published proceedings

  • Dev Psychobiol

altmetric score

  • 4.45

author list (cited authors)

  • Eiden, R. D., Ettekal, I., Zhao, J., Kelm, M. R., Nickerson, A. B., Ostrov, J. M., Schuetze, P., & Godleski, S.

citation count

  • 0

publication date

  • March 2023