The links between prenatal stress and offspring development and psychopathology: disentangling environmental and inherited influences

Rice, F, Harold, G T, Boivin, J, van den Bree, M, Hay, D F and Thapar, A (2010) The links between prenatal stress and offspring development and psychopathology: disentangling environmental and inherited influences. Psychological Medicine, 40 (2). pp. 335-342. ISSN 0033-2917

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Abstract

Background Exposure to prenatal stress is associated with later adverse health and adjustment outcomes. This is generally presumed to arise through early environmentally mediated programming effects on the foetus. However, associations could arise through factors that influence mothers' characteristics and behaviour during pregnancy which are inherited by offspring.Method A prenatal cross-fostering design where pregnant mothers are related or unrelated to their child as a result of in vitro fertilization (IVF) was used to disentangle maternally inherited and environmental influences. If links between prenatal stress and offspring outcome are environmental, association should be observed in unrelated as well as related motherchild pairs. Offspring birth weight and gestational age as well as mental health were the outcomes assessed.Results Associations between prenatal stress and offspring birth weight, gestational age and antisocial behaviour were seen in both related and unrelated motheroffspring pairs, consistent with there being environmental links. The association between prenatal stress and offspring anxiety in related and unrelated groups appeared to be due to current maternal anxiety/depression rather than prenatal stress. In contrast, the link between prenatal stress and offspring attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was only present in related motheroffspring pairs and therefore was attributable to inherited factors.Conclusions Genetically informative designs can be helpful in testing whether inherited factors contribute to the association between environmental risk factors and health outcomes. These results suggest that associations between prenatal stress and offspring outcomes could arise from inherited factors and post-natal environmental factors in addition to causal prenatal risk effects. © Copyright Cambridge University Press 2009.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Depositing User: Carmel Stevenson
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2015 11:59
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2015 11:59
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/55506
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