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Infant Ment Health J. 2019 Feb 5. doi: 10.1002/imhj.21766. [Epub ahead of print]

Influence of in utero exposure to maternal depression and natural disaster-related stress on infant temperament at 6 months: The children of Superstorm Sandy.

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Queens College, City University of New York, Psychology Department, New York, New York.
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, Psychology Department, New York, New York.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Department of Psychiatry, New York, New York.
City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health, New York, New York.
Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Imperial College London, London, UK.
Toyohashi University of Technology, Toyohashi, Japan.
Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Hamamatsu, Japan.
New Jersey Institute of Technology, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University Heights Newark, New Jersey.


This study examined the effects of in utero exposure to maternal depression and Superstorm Sandy, a hurricane that hit metropolitan New York in 2012, on infant temperament at 6 months. Temperament was assessed using the Infant Behavior Questionnaire-Revised. Maternal depression was measured by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The main effects and the interaction of maternal depression and Sandy exposure on infant temperament were examined using a multivariable generalized linear model. Results show that prenatal maternal depression was associated with lower emotion regulation and greater distress. Stratification and interaction analyses suggested that the adverse effects of prenatal maternal depression on problematic temperament were amplified by in utero Sandy exposure. This study underscores the importance of providing prenatal screening and treatment for maternal depression during pregnancy while also identifying high-risk families who may have suffered from disaster-related traumas to provide necessary services. As the frequency of natural disasters may increase due to climate change, it is important to understand the consequences of in utero stress on child development and to formulate plans for early identification.


Superstorm Sandy; depression during pregnancy; infant temperament; prospective study; traumatic stress


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