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Less Prenatal Stress Reduces Child Behavioral Problems

Less Prenatal Stress Reduces Child Behavioral Problems

New research suggests expectant mothers may want to consider stress management as a way to lower the risk of problematic behavior in their offspring.

Investigators from the University of Ottawa examined data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and found that mothers who experience significant prenatal stress may be increasing their child’s risk for behavioral issues.

“Mothers who are exposed to high levels of stress during pregnancy have kids who are more than twice as likely to have chronic symptoms of hyperactivity and conduct disorder,” said Dr. Ian Colman, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine.

“Hyperactivity is a symptom of ADHD, and about 10 percent of school-age children are affected by ADHD or conduct disorder,” he said. “These disorders can lead to poor results in school and difficulties in their relationships with family and friends.”

Behavioral disorders such as those seen by the researchers are characterized by aggressive or antisocial behavior, high activity levels, and difficulty inhibiting behavior.

The conditions are also associated with school failure, substance use/abuse and criminal activity, according to the paper which appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

A mother’s stress can alter brain development in the fetus, and it is believed these changes may be long-lasting or permanent, said Colman.

The research approach was unique as investigators studied the effects of specific stressors on participants, as opposed to gauging overall stress levels.

Participants reported stressful events, such as problems at work, the illness of a relative, or an argument with a partner, family or friend.

“Generally speaking, we found that the higher the stress, the higher the symptoms,” Colman said.

“We can’t avoid most stressful events in our lives and since we can’t always prevent them, the focus should be on helping mothers manage stress in order to give their children the best start in life.”

Source: University of Ottawa

Less Prenatal Stress Reduces Child Behavioral Problems

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Less Prenatal Stress Reduces Child Behavioral Problems. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 17 Aug 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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