Prenatal substance exposure and child self-regulation: Pathways to risk and protection

Rina D. Eiden, Stephanie Godleski, Pamela Schuetze, Craig R. Colder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


A conceptual model of the association between prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) and child self-regulation via maternal harshness and language development was examined. Specifically, the model tested whether PCE was associated with self-regulation either directly or indirectly via high maternal harshness and poor language development. The role of child sex, autonomic reactivity, and cumulative environmental risk as potential moderators was also explored. The sample was 216 mother-child dyads recruited at birth and assessed at 2, 7, 13, 24, 36, and 48. months of child ages. Participating mothers were primarily African American (72%). Results indicated a significant indirect association between PCE and child effortful control at 36. months via higher maternal harshness. Autonomic reactivity moderated the association between maternal harshness and self-regulation such that among children with poor autonomic reactivity, high maternal harshness was associated with lower conscience at 3. years. Child sex and environmental risk did not moderate the association between PCE and self-regulation. Thus, the quality of caregiving experience played a significant role in the development of self-regulation among PCE children, especially those at higher autonomic risk. In particular, PCE children who also exhibit poor autonomic reactivity may be particularly susceptible to environmental influences such as parenting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-29
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of experimental child psychology
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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