Serotonin(1A) receptor (5-HT(1A)R) deficiency has been associated with anxiety and depression and mice with genetic receptor inactivation exhibit heightened anxiety. We have reported that 5-HT(1A)R is not only a genetic but also a maternal 'environmental' factor in the development of anxiety in Swiss-Webster mice. Here, we tested whether the emergence of maternal genotype-dependent adult anxiety is preceded by early behavioral abnormalities or whether it is manifested following a normal emotional development. Pups born to null or heterozygote mothers had significantly reduced ultrasonic vocalization (USV) between postnatal day (P) 4 and 12, indicating an influence of the maternal genotype. The offspring's own genotype had an effect limited to P4. Furthermore, we observed reduced weight gain in the null offspring of null but not heterozygote mothers, indicating that a complete maternal receptor deficiency compromises physical development of the offspring. Except a short perinatal deficit during the dark period, heterozygote females displayed normal maternal behavior, which, with the early appearance of USV deficit, suggests a role for 5-HT(1A)R during pre-/perinatal development. Consistent with this notion, adult anxiety in the offspring is determined during the pre-/perinatal period. In contrast to heterozygote females, null mothers exhibited impaired pup retrieval and nest building that may explain the reduced weight gain of their offspring. Taken together, our data indicate an important role for the maternal 5-HT(1A)R in regulating emotional and physical development of their offspring. Because reduced receptor binding has been reported in depression, including postpartum depression, reduced 5-HT(1A)R function in mothers may influence the emotional development of their offspring.