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Early Hum Dev. 2009 May;85(5):319-24. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2008.12.009. Epub 2009 Jan 21.

Sex differences in the relation between prenatal maternal emotional complaints and child outcome.

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  • 1Pediatric Psychology, Department of Developmental, Clinical and Cross-cultural Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands. T.C.E.deBruijn@uvt.nl



Sex differences are found in animal studies concerning the relationship between prenatal maternal stress and outcome of the offspring. Most human studies in this field have not addressed sex differences, although differences between boys and girls may elucidate the biochemical as well as psychological processes involved. Associations between prenatal maternal emotional complaints and behavioural problems of toddlers and preschoolers as assessed by both mothers and fathers are studied separately for boys and girls.


Healthy Dutch Caucasian singleton, pregnant women (N=444) answered questionnaires about anxiety and depression in every trimester of pregnancy. When their children (227 boys, 217 girls) were between 14 and 54 months old, both parents reported on their current feelings of depression and anxiety and on the behavioural problems of their children.


Prenatal maternal emotional complaints were found to be associated with child behavioural problems both in boys and in girls, but in different ways. Prenatal maternal emotional complaints during the first trimester were associated with total and internalizing behavioural problems for boys. Emotional complaints during the third trimester were associated with total, internalizing, as well as externalizing behavioural problems for girls.


Differentiation according to sex and information on timing of emotional complaints during pregnancy is needed in studies concerning the relation between prenatal maternal emotional complaints and child outcome.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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