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Prenatal anxiety, maternal stroking in infancy, and symptoms of emotional and behavioral disorders at 3.5 years

Pickles, A., Sharp, H., Hellier, J. and Hill, J. (2017) Prenatal anxiety, maternal stroking in infancy, and symptoms of emotional and behavioral disorders at 3.5 years. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 26 (3). pp. 325-334. ISSN 1435-165X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s00787-016-0886-6


Animal findings of long-term effects of maternal behaviors mediated via altered GR gene expression will, if translated into humans, have far reaching implications for our understanding of child and adolescent psychopathology. We have previously shown that mothers’ self-reported stroking of their infants modifies associations between prenatal depression and anxiety and child outcomes at 29 weeks and 2.5 years. Here, we examine whether the effect of early maternal stroking is evident at 3.5 years, and in a much larger sample than in previous publications. A general population sample of 1233 first-time mothers completed anxiety measures at 20 weeks gestation, 865 reported on infant stroking at 9 weeks, and 813 on child symptoms at 3.5 years. Maternal stroking moderated the association between pregnancy-specific anxiety and internalizing (p = 0.010) and externalizing (p = 0.004) scores, such that an effect of PSA to increase symptoms was markedly reduced for mothers who reported high levels of stroking. There was no effect of maternal stroking on general anxiety. The findings confirm the previously reported effect of maternal stroking, and in a much larger sample. They indicate that there are long-term effects of early maternal stroking, modifying associations between prenatal anxiety and child emotional and behavioral symptoms.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:66355
Publisher:Springer Verlag


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