The effects of maternal stress and illness during pregnancy on infant temperament: Project Ice Storm

Pediatr Res. 2016 Jan;79(1-1):107-13. doi: 10.1038/pr.2015.177. Epub 2015 Sep 16.


Background: To determine whether disaster-related prenatal maternal stress and maternal illness during pregnancy predict maternal-rated temperament status in 6-mo-old infants.

Method: The temperamental status of 121 infants (60 boys and 61 girls) exposed in utero to varying degrees of maternal stress and/or illness during either first (n = 40), second (n = 43), or third (n = 38) trimester of pregnancy was assessed using the Infant Characteristics Questionnaire.

Results: Higher levels of maternal subjective distress and illness were primarily independently associated with poorer temperamental status in the infants. Maternal subjective distress explained 3.4, 3.1, and 9.8% and early pregnancy illness explained 4.3, 5.8, and 2.9% of the variance of the infants' fussy/difficult, dullness, and needs attention temperament dimensions, respectively.

Conclusion: This is the first study to assess whether temperament status is influenced by disaster-related prenatal maternal stress. Moreover, this is the first study to assess whether maternal stress and illness during pregnancy interact to determine infant temperament status. The findings suggest that while both factors predict temperament status at 6 mo, they do so primarily in an independent manner. These results suggest that pathways through which maternal stress and illness during pregnancy influence temperament status differ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Pregnancy Trimesters
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects* / epidemiology
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperament* / physiology