Published Date2020-01-01
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology, 2020-01-01, Volume 62 Find other publications in this journal
Author Info
  • Department of Psychology, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.
  • Department of Psychology, Siena College, Loudonville, New York.
  • Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.
  • School of Pharmacy, Husson University, Bangor, Maine.
  • Department of Pediatrics, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, Bangor, Maine.


Although prenatal opioid exposure and postnatal withdrawal (neonatal abstinence syndrome) are associated with infant neurobehavioral deficits, little is known about the impact of continued maternal opioid treatment in the postnatal period on maternal responsivity and relationship to mother's oxytocin release during dyadic interactions in the Still Face paradigm. Mother and infant dyads (N = 14) were recruited and comprised of mothers on opioid replacement throughout pregnancy and postpartum (opioid-exposed group, n = 7) and a demographically controlled, non-exposed group (n = 7). Salivary oxytocin was collected following 10 min of infant separation before and immediately after a 6-min Still Face paradigm. Oxytocin measures correlated strongly with sensitive and prosocial maternal behaviors in response to infant initiation. Opioid-exposed compared to non-exposed mothers had significantly lower pre-test to post-test rise in salivary oxytocin concentration level as well as fewer sensitive behaviors during the reunion condition of the Still Face paradigm. Maternal opioid dependence during early infancy may impair maternal responsivity and sensitivity through suppression of the oxytocin reflex to infant stimulation.