Maternal anxiety is related to infant neurological condition, paternal anxiety is not

Early Hum Dev. 2010 Mar;86(3):171-7. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2010.02.004. Epub 2010 Mar 12.


Background: Parental anxiety and stress may have consequences for infant neurological development.

Aims: To study relationships between parental anxiety or well-being and infant neurological development approximately one year after birth.

Study design: Longitudinal study of a birth cohort of infants born to subfertile couples.

Subjects: 206 parent-child dyads.

Outcome measures: Infant neurology was assessed with the Touwen Infant Neurological Examination (TINE) at 10 months and a developmental questionnaire at 12 months. Parental measures included trait anxiety measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and well-being measured by the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ).

Results: Maternal trait anxiety was associated with a less optimal neurological condition (r(s)= -0.19, p<0.01) of the infant. This association persisted after adjusting for confounders and results were confirmed by the outcome of the developmental questionnaire. Paternal trait anxiety and parental well-being were not related to the infant's neurodevelopmental outcome.

Conclusions: Infants of mothers with high trait anxiety have an increased vulnerability to develop a non-optimal nervous system. The association may be mediated in part by early programming of monoaminergic systems. Future research should include an exploration of specific windows of vulnerability to maternal anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / parasitology*
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Nervous System Diseases / psychology*
  • Paternal Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires