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Adverse effects of maternal antenatal anxiety on children: Causal effect or developmental continuum?

  • Margaret R. Oates (a1)
Extract

There is much literature on the effects on the developing brain of adverse events in pregnancy and the sensitive period postpartum, both in humans and in animals (Perry & Pollard, 1998). The study published by O'Connor et a l (2002, this issue) contributes to this by suggesting that maternal antenatal anxiety increases the risk of behavioural problems in early childhood. They suggest that this could be due to the direct effect of maternal anxiety and stress on foetal brain development. This study also contributes to the longstanding and increasing evidence base that suggests that maternal mental ill health is related to childhood difficulties (Murray et al, 1996).

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References
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Evans, J., Heron, J., Francomb, H., et al (2001) Cohort study of depressed mood during pregnancy and after childbirth. BMJ, 323, 257260.
Green, J. M. & Murray, D. (1994) The use of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale in research to explore the relationship between antenatal and postnatal dysphoria. In Perinatal Psychiatry: Use and Abuse of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (eds Cox, J. L. & Holden, J. M.), pp. 180198. London: Gaskell.
Harrington, R. (2001a) Causal processes in development and psychopathology. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 9394.
Harrington, R. (2001b) Developmental continuities and discontinuities. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 189190.
Isohanni, M., Jones, P., Kemppainen, L., et al (2000) Childhood and adolescent predictors of schizophrenia in the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort – a descriptive life-span model. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 250, 311319.
Murray, L., Fiori-Cawley, A. & Hooper, R. (1996) The impact of postnatal depression and associated adversity on early mother–infant interactions and later infant outcome. Child Development, 67, 25122526.
O'Connor, T. G., Heron, J., Golding, J., et al (2002) Maternal antenatal anxiety and children's behavioural/ emotional problems at 4 years. Report from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. British Journal of Psychiatry, 180, 502508.
O'Keane, V. (2000) Evolving model of depression as an expression of multiple interacting risk factors. British Journal of Psychiatry, 177, 482483.
Perry, B. & Pollard, R. (1998) Homeostasis, stress, trauma & adaptation: A neurodevelopmental view of childhood. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 7, 3351.
Rutter, M. L., Kreppner, J. M. & O'Connor, T. G. (2001) Specificity and heterogeneity in children's responses to profound institutional privation. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 97103.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Adverse effects of maternal antenatal anxiety on children: Causal effect or developmental continuum?

  • Margaret R. Oates (a1)
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