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Maternal antenatal anxiety and children's behavioural/emotional problems at 4 years: Report from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children

  • Thomas G. O'Connor (a1), Jonathon Heron (a2), Jean Golding (a3), Michael Beveridge (a4) and Vivette Glover (a4)...

Animal experiments suggestthat maternal stress and anxiety during pregnancy have long-term effects on the behaviour ofthe off spring.


Totestthe hypothesis that antenatal maternal anxiety predicts behavioural problems at age 4 years.


Data were collected on multiple antenatal and postnatal assessments of maternal anxiety and depression, antenatal and obstetric risks, psychosocial risks and children's behavioural/emotional problems (n⩵7448).


Antenatal maternal anxiety predicted behavioural/emotional problems in boys (OR⩵2.l4,95⩵ CI 1.48−3.10) and girls (OR⩵1.88,95⩵ CI 1.3–2.69) after accounting for covariates. When covarying maternal anxiety up to 33 months postnatally, antenatal anxiety continued to predicttotal problems in boys (OR⩵l.56,95⩵ CI 1.02–2.41) and girls (OR⩵l.5l,95⩵ CI 1.22–2.81).


There could be a direct effect of maternal mood on foetal brain development, which affects the behavioural development ofthe child.

Corresponding author
Dr T. O'Connor, Institute of Psychiatryn III Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7848 0873; Fax: +44 (0) 207848 0866; e-mail:
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See editorial, pp. 478–479, this issue.

Declaration of interest

ALSPAC is funded byThe WellcomeTrust, the Department of Health, the Department of the Environment, and the Medical Research Council. Supportfor this analysis was provided by the PPP Healthcare Medical Trust.

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Maternal antenatal anxiety and children's behavioural/emotional problems at 4 years: Report from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children

  • Thomas G. O'Connor (a1), Jonathon Heron (a2), Jean Golding (a3), Michael Beveridge (a4) and Vivette Glover (a4)...
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