Mothers' attachment is linked to their children's anti-inflammatory gene expression via maternal warmth

Sarah C. E. Stanton, Samuele Zilioli, Julia L. Briskin, Ledina Imami, Erin T. Tobin, Derek E. Wildman, Henriette Mair-Meijers, Francesca Luca, Heidi S. Kane, Richard B. Slatcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has demonstrated links between adult romantic attachment and one’s own physical health; little is known about links between adult attachment orientations and offspring health. Prior work has shown that parents’ greater attachment anxiety and avoidance predicts less warmth toward their children. Extensive work has also shown that lower maternal warmth has negative downstream effects on offspring health. We tested the novel hypothesis that mothers’ dispositional romantic attachment would be linked—via maternal warmth—to their children’s expression of the glucocorticoid receptor gene NR3C1, higher expression of which is associated with healthier stress-regulation and inflammatory response. In a sample of 132 youth with asthma, we found that mothers’ attachment anxiety and avoidance were both negatively associated with children’s expression of NR3C1, explained by lower youth-rated maternal warmth. Effects held after adjusting for demographic and psychosocial covariates. Implications for parents’ attachment influencing the health of offspring are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-805
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number7
Early online date4 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • attachment
  • maternal warmth
  • gene expression
  • glucocortcoid receptor
  • NR3C1
  • family


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