This study examined the association between prenatal exposure to cocaine and behavioral and physiological responsivity. Participants were 216 mother-infant dyads (116 cocaine exposed-CE, 100 nonexposed-NCE) recruited at birth. Measures of heart rate (HR) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) were obtained during baseline and during a task designed to elicit empathy (exposure to infant crying). When the effects of prenatal cocaine use were examined in the context of polydrug use, results of model testing indicated that lower gestational age, prenatal exposure to cocaine and postnatal exposure to alcohol were each associated with a reduced suppression of RSA during the empathy task. These findings provide additional support for an association between prenatal cocaine exposure and dysregulation during early childhood during affect-eliciting environmental challenges. •Empathic responsivity and prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) at 3years of age•Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) obtained during exposure to infant crying•PCE, postnatal alcohol, gestational age associated with physiological responsivity•Only postnatal alcohol exposure was associated with behavioral responsivity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience