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Early Hum Dev. 2005 Oct;81(10):815-21. Epub 2005 Jul 14.

Maternal stress, social support and preschool children's intelligence.

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1
Department of Paediatrics, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand. rebecca.slykerman@ihug.co.nz

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Despite some research suggesting maternal stress may be associated with cognitive impairment in preschool children, there has been little direct investigation of the association between maternal stress, social support and children's intelligence.

AIM:

To determine whether maternal stress and social support during pregnancy and during the child's early years of life are associated with the intelligence test performance of preschool children.

STUDY DESIGN:

Five hundred and fifty European mothers and children enrolled in the Auckland Birthweight Collaborative Study at birth were interviewed when the child was 3 1/2 years of age.

SUBJECTS:

All children were full term gestation and approximately half the sample were small for gestational age at birth (SGA = birthweight < or = 10th percentile).

OUTCOME MEASURE:

The cognitive ability of children aged 3 1/2 years was assessed using the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale 4th Edition.

RESULTS:

In the total sample, maternal stress and lack of social support during pregnancy were significantly associated with lower intelligence test scores of children. In the group of SGA children, maternal stress post pregnancy was significantly associated with lower intelligence test scores in children. There is evidence that for some children the presence of good social support for mothers may reduce the negative effects of maternal stress on children's cognitive development.

CONCLUSION:

Maternal stress and lack of social support appear to be associated with lower intelligence test scores of preschool children. Social support may attenuate some of the negative effects of maternal stress on intelligence in children born small for gestational age.

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