This study examined the associations of testosterone and cortisol levels with maternal depressive symptoms and infant socioemotional (SE) problems that are influenced by infant gender. A total of 62 mothers and their very-low-birth weight (VLBW) infants were recruited from a neonatal intensive care unit at a tertiary medical center in the southeast United States. Data were collected at three time points (before 40 weeks' postmenstrual age [PMA] and at 3 months and 6 months of age corrected for prematurity). Measures included infant medical record review, maternal interview, biochemical assays of salivary hormone levels in mother-VLBWinfant pairs, and standard questionnaires. Generalized estimating equations with separate analyses for boys and girls showed that maternal testosterone level was negatively associated with depressive symptoms in mothers of boys, whereas infant testosterone level was negatively associated with maternal report of infant SE problems in girls after controlling for characteristics of mothers and infants and number of days post birth of saliva collection. Not surprisingly, the SE problems were positively associated with a number of medical complications. Mothers with more depressive symptoms reported that their infants had more SE problems. Mothers with higher testosterone levels reported that girls, but not boys, had fewer SE problems. In summary, high levels of testosterone could have a protective role for maternal depressive symptoms and infant SE problems. Future research need to be directed toward clinical application of these preliminary results.
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