Maternal distress during pregnancy and language development in preschool age: a population-based cohort study

Luisa A. Ribeiro*, Henrik D. Zachrisson, Kristin Gustavson, Synnve Schjølberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Recent studies have emphasized the importance of the prenatal period for children's cognitive development. Prenatal exposure to psychological distress has been identified as one potential agent affecting neurodevelopment, although research in this area has been marked by some contradictory findings and methodological limitations. This study aimed to investigate the effect of maternal distress during pregnancy on language development of preschool children. This study was based on the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study conducted at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The sample was composed of 34,089 women and their children. We assessed the role of maternal prenatal distress on child language over and above that of premature low birth weight (PLBW) status and postnatal maternal distress. Fear of giving birth had a negative impact on language outcome at age three over and above the effect of PLBW status and postnatal maternal distress. However, this effect was of minimal magnitude. Moreover, when examining whether differences in language skills between siblings were associated with differences in experienced levels of prenatal stress across pregnancies (sibling fixed-effects models), no significant effects were found. Our study suggests that prenatal distress within moderate limits does not seem to have an independent impact on child language performance in the preschool years and emphasizes the importance of considering the contextual role played by more stable maternal and family characteristics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-39
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Developmental Psychology
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Child language
  • MoBa
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal stress
  • The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study

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