Prenatal exposure to tobacco and cannabis: Effects on autonomic and emotion regulation

Rina D. Eiden, Pamela Schuetze, Shannon Shisler, Marilyn A. Huestis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Tobacco and cannabis are often used together in pregnancy and both have effects on children's regulatory system. Yet, little is known about the impact of co-use on the development of emotion regulation at the developmentally salient age of 2 years. One pathway linking co-exposure to tobacco and cannabis to toddler regulation may be via poor autonomic regulation in infancy. In addition, substance using mothers may be more dysregulated themselves, which may have direct effects on toddler regulation, but may also affect parenting, particularly maternal sensitivity during mother-child interactions. Thus, a second pathway linking exposure to toddler regulation may be via maternal dysregulation and low maternal sensitivity. We examined a conceptual model linking prenatal exposure to toddler regulation via these two pathways in a prospective sample (N = 247) of mother-child dyads recruited in the first trimester of pregnancy. Results indicated significant effects of co-exposure on poor autonomic regulation in infancy, which in turn predicted poor toddler emotion regulation. Mothers who used both tobacco and cannabis displayed lower sensitivity during play interactions with their infants. Maternal sensitivity was modestly stable from infant to toddler period and was predictive of higher toddler emotion regulation. Continued postnatal exposure to tobacco was also a significant, unique predictor of lower toddler emotion regulation. Results highlight the importance of examining co-exposure effects and suggest that this common pattern of use may be associated with higher infant/toddler risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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