I studied biology and human behavior and then entered the field of developmental psychology where I wrote my PhD thesis. Since then, I’ve focused on studying the psychobiology of early development. I’m interested in understanding how the early environment, especially in pregnancy and infancy, is related to the child’s development and later life.
Early life is a fascinating period because it is a sensitive period in development, when the organism is open to influences from outside and when many environmental factors can importantly impact development. Environmental factors that I investigate are risk factors, such as maternal prenatal stress and low-quality caregiving, and protective factors, such as a secure attachment, room-sharing and breastfeeding.
To understand exactly how the environment may affect child development, I research mental wellbeing and behavior, and their underlying biological processes. This is what we call psychobiology: looking at interactions between psychology and biology. These interactions help us understand how child development unfolds in different conditions. Also, this knowledge is essential to know when and how to intervene to help mothers and children with extra challenges.
At the moment, I’m working on a diversity of projects. These include studies on prenatal en postnatal stress, diet, gut microbiota, sleep, emotion regulation, maternal sensitivity, physical health, cellular aging (e.g., telomeres), brain, physical environment, mothermilk composition, and culture.
De Weerth, C. (2017) Do Bacteria Shape our Development? Crosstalk between Intestinal Microbiota and HPA Axis. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 83:458-471.
de Weerth, C., Buitelaar, J.K., Beijers, R. (2013) Infant cortisol and behavioral habituation to weekly maternal separations: Links with maternal prenatal cortisol and psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38:2863-2874.
Tollenaar, M.S., Beijers, R., Jansen, J., Riksen-Walraven, J.M., Weerth C. de (2012). Solitary sleeping in young infants is associated with heightened cortisol reactivity to a bathing session but not to a vaccination. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(2):167-77.