Maternal prenatal stress predicts internalizing behavior in healthy 10-year old children
Prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) has been related to a number of adverse emotional and behavioral outcomes in early life, some of which persist throughout childhood and into adulthood. However, the majority of studies that have investigated long-term child outcomes have not considered the potential differences between psychosocial PNMS (i.e. experienced stress) and physiological PNMS (i.e. circadian cortisol) or examined additional factors within this relationship, such as cortisol activity, parental care, and the child’s sex. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between these two types of PNMS and 10-year-old child internalizing and externalizing behavior within the prospective BIBO study (n=193), as mediated by toddler cortisol and moderated by maternal sensitivity and the child’s sex. Structural equation modeling analyses revealed that PNMS predicted child internalizing behavior. While physiological PNMS significantly predicted self-reported internalizing behavior, psychosocial PNMS significantly predicted maternal-reported internalizing behavior. Conclusions about the potential mediation and moderation of these relationships could not be made based on the current analyses. These results suggest that future research should approach psychosocial and physiological PNMS as independent predictors of child outcomes and consider the perspectives of multiple reporters for a comprehensive assessment of child behavior.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen