Effect of parental obesity and gestational diabetes on child neuropsychological and behavioral development at 4 years of age: the Rhea mother-child cohort, Crete, Greece

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017 Jun;26(6):703-714. doi: 10.1007/s00787-016-0934-2. Epub 2017 Jan 3.


Studies have suggested an association between maternal obesity pre-pregnancy and gestational diabetes (GDM) with impaired offspring neurodevelopment, but it is not clear if these associations are explained by shared familiar characteristics. We aimed to assess the associations of maternal and paternal obesity, maternal glucose intolerance in early pregnancy and GDM, with offspring neurodevelopment at 4 years of age. We included 772 mother-child pairs from the "Rhea" Mother-Child cohort in Crete, Greece. Data on maternal/paternal body mass index (BMI) and maternal fasting serum samples for glucose and insulin measurements were collected at 12 weeks of gestation. GDM screening was performed at 24-28 weeks. Neurodevelopment at 4 years was assessed using the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities. Behavioral difficulties were assessed by Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Test. Multivariate linear regression analyses showed that maternal obesity was associated with a significant score reduction in general cognitive ability (β-coeff -4.03, 95% CI: -7.08, -0.97), perceptual performance (β-coeff -4.60, 95% CI: -7.74, -1.47), quantitative ability (β-coeff -4.43, 95% CI: -7.68, -1.18), and executive functions (β-coeff -4.92, 95% CI: -8.06, -1.78) at 4 years of age, after adjustment for several confounders and paternal BMI. Maternal obesity was also associated with increased behavioral difficulties (β-coeff 1.22, 95% CI: 0.09, 2.34) and ADHD symptoms (β-coeff 4.28, 95% CI: 1.20, 7.36) at preschool age. Paternal obesity maternal glucose intolerance in early pregnancy and GDM was not associated with child neurodevelopment. These findings suggest that maternal obesity may impair optimal child neurodevelopment at preschool age independently of family shared characteristics.

Keywords: Behavior; Gestational diabetes; Longitudinal study; Neuropsychological development; Obesity; Preschool age.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes, Gestational / psychology*
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors