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.
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