Maternal Stress during Pregnancy and Children’s Diet: Evidence from a population of low socioeconomic status

Nicolai Vitt, Martina Vecchi, Jonathan James*, Michèle Belot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Objectives: The study examined the relationship between maternal exposure to stress during pregnancy and children’s food preferences and diet in a low socioeconomic status (SES) population. 
Methods: Indices of exposure to stress were constructed based on retrospective self-reported experience of stressful events during pregnancy (such as death of close family member, relationship difficulties, legal issues, health issues, financial issues, or other potentially stressful event(s)). Data was collected for more than two hundred low SES mothers, with a child between the age of 2 and 12. Data on mothers’ body mass index, current exposure to stress, current diet and diet during pregnancy was collected at the same time, as well as data on children’s food preferences and current diet as reported by the mothers. Indices of the healthiness of food preferences and diet were constructed and used as outcome variables. 
Results: Maternal exposure to stress during pregnancy significantly predicts children’s food and taste preferences as well as their diet, in regression models controlling for maternal diet, current maternal stress and demographics of child and mother. Higher average stress during pregnancy is linked with significantly less healthy food preferences and diet, and with weaker preferences for sour and bitter foods. This relationship is observed across different age groups.
Conclusions: Maternal exposure to stress during pregnancy could have long run detrimental effects on dietary outcomes and thereby on health conditions related to diet. Prenatal care and preconception counselling could be critical for developing preventive strategies to improve public health.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111423
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition
Volume93
Early online date28 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank EssexLab and the Universit? degli Studi di Firenze for allowing the use of their facilities. All phases of this study were supported by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (grant agreement no. 607310). Nicolai Vitt further gratefully acknowledges funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (award 1651922). The study was part of a larger study preregistered in the AEA RCT registry (trial ID AEARCTR-0003410) before data collection. Details can be found at https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3410/history/35937. The study was conducted with ethical approval of the European University Institute and the University of Edinburgh. Written informed consent was given by all participants.

Funding Information:
The authors thank EssexLab and the Università degli Studi di Firenze for allowing the use of their facilities. All phases of this study were supported by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (grant agreement no. 607310). Nicolai Vitt further gratefully acknowledges funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (award 1651922). The study was part of a larger study preregistered in the AEA RCT registry (trial ID AEARCTR-0003410) before data collection. Details can be found at https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3410/history/35937 . The study was conducted with ethical approval of the European University Institute and the University of Edinburgh. Written informed consent was given by all participants.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)

Structured keywords

  • ECON Applied Economics
  • ECON CEPS Health

Keywords

  • diet
  • stress
  • in-utero
  • food preferences

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