From postnatal day (PND) 4 to 14, neonates display a minimal pituitary-adrenal response to mild stress, the so-called ‘stress hyporesponsive period’ (SHRP). During the SHRP, maternal deprivation (MD) alters the pituitary-adrenal system, enabling neonates to become endocrine responsive to specific stimuli. We have previously reported that during the SHRP, mild stress enhances corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Insofar as elevated CRH mRNA was observed both in the presence and absence of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) release, we hypothesized that other ACTH secretagogues may participate in the pituitary stress response. During the SHRP, does arginine vasopressin (AVP) complement the actions of CRH which might be reflected centrally by the enhanced biosynthesis of both neuropeptides? To test this hypothesis we examined the time course of stress-induced CRH and AVP mRNA in the PVN at PND 6, 12, and 18. As an index of neural activity, c-fos mRNA in the PVN was also examined. Restraint was used as the stressor and MD was employed to enable an endocrine response during the SHRP. Despite the absence of stress-induced ACTH, in nondeprived pups during the SHRP, CRH mRNA was rapidly enhanced. In their maternally deprived (DEP) counterparts, ACTH levels were increased, and a significant induction of CRH mRNA was only observed at day 12. AVP mRNA levels were elevated in DEP 12-day-old pups at 15, 30 and 60 min. In rats beyond the SHRP, plasma ACTH levels, CRH and AVP mRNA were all enhanced following restraint. At PND 18, elevated CRH mRNA was not observed until 4 h after stimulus. Following restraint, c-fos mRNA was increased at all three ages, although the magnitude of c-fos response was less during the SHRP. These results demonstrate that when restraint elicits prototypical ACTH release, the neonatal central response is to enhance the biosynthesis of both AVP and CRH. If nucleic acid changes correlate with release, the increased synthesis of both neuropeptides may indicate the potential for AVP to synergize with CRH during the neonatal stress response.