Beyond the dyad: the role of mother and father in newborns’ global DNA methylation during the first month of life—a pilot study

Gaia Romana Pellicano, Valeria Carola, Silvia Bussone, Marco Cecchini, Renata Tambelli, Carlo Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study aimed to longitudinally explore the effects of parental prenatal attachment and psychopathological symptomatology on neonatal global DNA methylation (5-mC) variation between birth and the first month of life. Eighteen mothers and thirteen fathers were assessed before childbirth (t0) by Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Prenatal-Attachment Inventory, and Paternal Antenatal Attachment Scale; 48 hr after childbirth (t1) by SCL-90-R; and one month after childbirth (t2) by PSS. At t1 and t2, buccal swabs from parents and newborns were collected. In newborns’ 5-mC and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of DAT, MAOA, BDNF, and 5-HTTLPR genes were detected, while in parents only SNPs were measured. At t1, newborns’ 5-mC was negatively associated with maternal psychopathological symptoms, while at t2, newborns’ 5-mC was positively associated with paternal psychopathological symptoms and negatively with paternal prenatal attachment. The variation of newborns’ 5-mC from t1 to t2 was predicted by paternal psychopathological symptoms. No significant correlations among parental SNPs and 5-mC levels were found. Results highlight parent-specific influences on newborn's DNA methylation. At birth, maternal psychological symptoms seem to have an effect on newborns’ 5-mC, while after one month of life, paternal psychological characteristics could have a specific role in modulating the newborns’ epigenetic responses to the environment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Dec 2020


  • DNA methylation
  • epigenetics
  • maternal psychopathology
  • newborn infants
  • paternal psychopathology
  • prenatal attachment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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