The role of prenatal maternal stress in the development of childhood anxiety symptomatology: The QF2011 Queensland Flood Study

Mia A. McLean, Vanessa E. Cobham, Gabrielle Simcock, Guillaume Elgbeili, Sue Kildea, Suzanne King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

It is possible that findings suggesting a link between prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) and anxiety symptoms in offspring are confounded by postnatal and/or shared mother-child heritability effects. Following exposure to a natural disaster, the Queensland Flood Study investigated the unique and additive effects of various types of disaster-related PNMS (objective hardship, cognitive appraisal, and subjective distress) on childhood anxiety symptomatology (internalizing and/or anxiety symptom measures). Timing of flood exposure during pregnancy and child sex were examined as potential moderators. After controlling for maternal psychosocial factors, greater objective hardship as a result of the floods was significantly associated with greater anxiety symptoms (N = 114) and marginally associated with greater internalizing behaviors (N = 115). Earlier timing of the flood in pregnancy was associated with greater anxiety symptoms. No such associations were found between any PNMS measure and teacher-rated child internalizing behaviors (N = 90). Sex and timing did not moderate associations. Our findings suggest that, in isolation, increased maternal hardship due to exposure to an independent stressor, during pregnancy, may have a programming effect on childhood anxiety symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)995-1007
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Volume30
Issue numberSpecial Issue 3
Early online date2 Aug 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

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