Prenatal stress and cognitive development and temperament in infants
SourceNeurobiology of Aging, 24, 1, (2003), pp. S53-S60
Article / Letter to editor
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PI Group Memory and Emotion
SW OZ BSI OGG
Neurobiology of Aging
Subject110 012 Social cognition of verbal communication; Developmental Psychopathology
Studies in rodents and nonhuman primates indicate that maternal stress during pregnancy can influence the developing fetus, resulting in delay of motor and cognitive development and impaired adaptation to stressful situations. These effects may be mediated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. We examined whether stress during pregnancy predicted developmental outcome of human infants in a prospective design. Self-report data about daily hassles and pregnancy-specific anxiety and salivary cortisol levels were collected in nulliparous pregnant women. Dependent measures were scores on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and on temperamental questionnaires at 3 and 8 months. Pregnancy-specific anxiety in mid pregnancy predicted lower mental and motor developmental scores at 8 months. Early morning values of cortisol in late pregnancy were negatively related to both mental and motor development at 3 months and motor development at 8 months. Pregnancy-specific anxiety explained 7% of the variance of test-affectivity and goal-directedness at 8 months. Increased maternal stress during pregnancy seems to be one of the determinants of temperamental variation and delay of development of infants and may be a risk factor for developing psychopathology later in life.
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