All Publications

  • Emotion regulation strategies and perceived stress during pregnancy in expectant mothers and fathers. Journal of reproductive and infant psychology Penner, F., Bunderson, M., Bartz, C., Brooker, R. J., Rutherford, H. J. 2022: 1-14


    BACKGROUND: Stress during pregnancy can increase physical and mental health risks in parents and offspring. Emotion regulation (ER) may protect against prenatal stress; however, ER is understudied in expectant parents, particularly expectant fathers. This study aimed to evaluate associations between ER strategies (reappraisal, suppression, ratio of suppression-to-reappraisal) and perceived stress among expectant parents, and also test whether expectant mothers and fathers differed in ER strategy use and perceived stress levels.METHODS: N =83 expectant parents (62.7% mothers) in the third trimester completed measures assessing perceived stress,reappraisal, and suppression. ANCOVA, hierarchical regression, and multilevel models were used to evaluate associations between ER strategies and perceived stress, and test for sex differences.RESULTS: Controlling for age and education, lower reappraisal and higher suppression were associated with higher perceived stress; in addition, higher suppression-to-reappraisal ratios were associated with greater perceived stress. Mothers and fathers did not differ in perceived stress, reappraisal, or suppression; however, suppression-to-reappraisal ratios significantly differed.CONCLUSION: Increasing ER skills such as reappraisal while reducing suppression may be beneficial for decreasing stress in expectant parents. Expectant fathers report similar levels of perceived stress to mothers and would benefit from prenatal mental health screening and intervention.

    View details for DOI 10.1080/02646838.2022.2110224

    View details for PubMedID 35949103

  • Maternal Perinatal Anxiety and Neural Responding to Infant Affective Signals: Insights, Challenges, and a Road Map for Neuroimaging Research. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews Yatziv, T., Vancor, E. A., Bunderson, M., Rutherford, H. J. 2021


    Anxiety symptoms are common among women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, potentially having detrimental effects on both mother and child's well-being. Perinatal maternal anxiety interferes with a core facet of adaptive caregiving: mothers' sensitive responsiveness to infant affective communicative 'cues.' This review summarizes the current research on the neural correlates of maternal processing of infant cues in the presence of perinatal anxiety, outlines its limitations, and offers next steps to advance future research. Functional neuroimaging studies examining the neural circuitry involved in, and electrophysiological studies examining the temporal dynamics of, processing infant cues during pregnancy and postpartum are reviewed. Studies have generally indicated mixed findings, although emerging themes suggest that anxiety may be implicated in several stages of processing infant cues- detection, interpretation, and reaction- contingent upon cue valence. Limitations include inconsistent designs, lack of differentiation between anxiety and depression symptoms, and limited consideration of parenting-specific (versus domain-general) anxiety. Future studies should incorporate longitudinal investigation of multiple levels of analysis spanning neural, cognitive, and observed aspects of sensitive caregiving.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.09.043

    View details for PubMedID 34563563

  • Imagining the baby: Neural reactivity to infant distress and mind-mindedness in expectant parents BIOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY Rutherford, H. J., Bunderson, M., Bartz, C., Haitsuka, H., Meins, E., Groh, A. M., Milligan, K. 2021; 161: 108057


    Neural and psychological processes in pregnancy may be important antecedents for caregiving postpartum. Employing event-related potentials, we examined neural reactivity to infant emotional faces during the third trimester of pregnancy in expectant mothers (n = 38) and expectant fathers (n = 30). Specifically, expectant parents viewed infant distress and infant neutral faces while electroencephalography was simultaneously recorded. As a psychological measure, we assessed prenatal mind-mindedness towards the unborn child and examined whether neural processing of infant cues was associated with levels of mind-mindedness. Expectant fathers evidenced greater P300 reactivity to infant distress, relative to neutral, faces than expectant mothers. Furthermore, P300 reactivity to infant distress, relative to infant neutral, faces was associated with levels of prenatal mind-mindedness in expectant fathers but not expectant mothers. These findings indicate significant sex differences in the prenatal neural processing of infant cues and relations between neural reactivity to infant distress and the emergence of parental mind-mindedness.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2021.108057

    View details for Web of Science ID 000647843000007

    View details for PubMedID 33640474

  • Prior reproductive experience modulates neural responses to infant faces across the postpartum period SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE Bunderson, M., Diaz, D., Maupin, A., Landi, N., Potenza, M. N., Mayes, L. C., Rutherford, H. J. 2020; 15 (6): 650-654


    Infant-cue processing facilitates sensitive maternal care, which is necessary in the formation of healthy mother-infant attachment. Mothers may be particularly focused on cue processing early postpartum, contributing to intense preoccupation with their infant's well-being. Prior reproductive experience, or parity, may also impact the intensity of infant-cue processing and has been found to influence P300 neural responses to infant faces during pregnancy and at 2 months postpartum. However, we do not know whether this parity effect persists. Thus, we examined the P300 to infant faces in 59 mothers at 2 and 7 months postpartum. Our main finding was that primiparous, as compared to multiparous, women showed a significantly higher P300 to infant faces across the postpartum period. Findings further emphasize the importance of studying parity and its impact on the neural processing of infant faces.

    View details for DOI 10.1080/17470919.2020.1847729

    View details for Web of Science ID 000591472700001

    View details for PubMedID 33155504

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7771045

  • Facial recognition during early motherhood: Investigating the persistence of age and affect biases ACTA PSYCHOLOGICA Bunderson, M., Armstrong, K., Mayes, L. C., McCrory, E. J., Thompson-Booth, C., Rutherford, H. J. 2020; 210: 103136


    Converging evidence demonstrates increased levels of sensitivity to infant faces in mothers. This may be reflective of a series of psychological and neurobiological changes that occur in the transition to, and during early, parenthood for the purpose of appropriate caregiving; however, this enhanced infant facial recognition is in contrast with the general adult literature regarding facial processing. In the current study, we aimed to replicate a prior study of emotion facial recognition in pregnant women in a sample of mothers with children under a year old, utilizing a paradigm in which adult and infant faces gradually changed from neutral expressions to either happy or sad expressions. Mothers were faster at the recognition of adult faces in comparison to infant faces, and were also faster at happy faces in comparison to sad faces. Results are discussed in context of the current processing literature regarding the perinatal period, and implications for the persistence of the own-age bias and happy face advantage are considered.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.actpsy.2020.103136

    View details for Web of Science ID 000598077500015

    View details for PubMedID 32768610