Effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on infant reactivity and regulation

Neurotoxicol Teratol. Jan-Feb 2009;31(1):60-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ntt.2008.08.005. Epub 2008 Sep 10.


The purpose of this study was to examine the role of prenatal cocaine exposure and associated risk factors on infant reactivity and regulation at 7 months of infant age. Participants consisted of 167 mother-infant dyads participating in an ongoing longitudinal study of prenatal cocaine exposure, who completed the arm restraint procedure at the 7-month assessment (87 cocaine exposed, 80 non-cocaine exposed). We hypothesized that cocaine exposed infants would display higher arousal or reactivity and lower regulation during a procedure designed to arouse anger/frustration. Results indicated that cocaine exposed infants were more reactive to increases in the level of stress from trial 1 to trial 2 but exhibited no change in the number of regulatory strategies as stress increased, unlike the control group infants. Infant birth weight moderated the association between cocaine exposure and infant regulation. Among cocaine exposed infants, those with lower birth weight displayed higher reactivity compared to those with higher birth weight. Contrary to expectations, there were no indirect effects between cocaine exposure and infant reactivity/regulation via environmental risk, parenting, or birth weight. Results are supportive of a teratological model of prenatal cocaine exposure for infant reactivity/regulation in infancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anger / drug effects
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Birth Weight / physiology
  • Cocaine / toxicity*
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Growth / drug effects
  • Head / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior / drug effects*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Parenting
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Young Adult


  • Cocaine