Positive maternal mental health during pregnancy associated with specific forms of adaptive development in early childhood: Evidence from a longitudinal study

Dev Psychopathol. 2017 Dec;29(5):1573-1587. doi: 10.1017/S0954579417001249.


The quality of prenatal maternal mental health, from psychological stress and depressive symptoms to anxiety and other nonpsychotic mental disorders, profoundly affects fetal neurodevelopment. Despite the evidence for the influence of positive mental well-being on health, there is, to our knowledge, no research examining the possible effects of positive antenatal mental health on the development of the offspring. Using exploratory bifactor analysis, this prospective study (n = 1,066) demonstrated the feasibility of using common psychiatric screening tools to examine the effect of positive maternal mental health. Antenatal mental health was assessed during 26th week of pregnancy. The effects on offspring were assessed when the child was 12, 18, and 24 months old. Results showed that positive antenatal mental health was uniquely associated with the offspring's cognitive, language and parentally rated competences. This study shows that the effects of positive maternal mental health are likely to be specific and distinct from the sheer absence of symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*