CHILD DEVELOPMENT, Volume 56, Number 2, Pages 824-834,
August 1985.

Coping with Aversive Stimulation in the
Neonatal Period: Quiet Sleep and Plasma
Cortisol Levels during Recovery from

Megan R. Gunnar and Stephen Malone
University of Minnesota

Gail Vance and Robert O. Fisch
University of Minnesota Hospitals

GUNNAR, MEGAN R.; MALONE, STEPHEN, VANCE, GAIL, and FISCH, ROBERT O. Coping with Aversive Stimulation in the Neonatal Period: Quiet Sleep and Plasma Cortisol Levels during Recovery from Circumcision, CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 1985, 56, 824-834. Measures of behavioral state and plasma cortisol were obtained on 80 healthy, full-term, 2-3-day-old, male newborns who were scheduled to be circumcised. To establish baseline or precircumcision levels, the newborns were observed, and behavioral state was recorded for the half hour prior to circumcision. Blood was sampled via heelstick for plasma cortisol determination at the end of the observation period. The newborns were then circumcised and assigned randomly to one of 4 postcircumcision time-point groups. The time points were 30, 90, 120, and 240 min following the beginning of circumcision. Behavioral state was observed during circumcision and for the half hour prior to taking the second blood sample. The results showed a return to baseline cortisol levels sometime prior to 240 min, with data from an additional group of 10 newborns indicating that the return occurred by 150 min. Behavioral distress during circumcision was associated with levels in plasma cortisol at 30 and 90 min. Quiet sleep was correlated negatively with plasma cortisol prior to circumcision, and significant increases in quiet sleep followed circumcision, with the greatest increase corresponding to the periods of most rapid reductions in cortisol.

This research was supported by NICHHD grant HD-16494 to Megan R. Gunnar. The authors would like to express their appreciation to all those who helped with this research, including the staff of Fairview Hospital, Joan Connors who served as the Research Coordinator in the nursery, and the graduate and undergraduate students who aided in data collection. Portions of this paper were presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, New York, April 1984.

© 1985 by the Society for Reseach in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved.

(File revised 5 September 2006)

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