Background: International studies indicate that the median prevalence of psychotic experiences in children is 7%. It has been proposed that environmental stress during pregnancy may affect the neurodevelopment of the foetus and lead to a vulnerability in the child to later stressors and psychopathology.
Aim: In this study we explore the relationship between environmental stress during pregnancy and psychotic experiences in children in the general population at 12 years.
Methods: We analysed a birth cohort of 5038 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Environmental stress was measured as life event exposure. Data on life events were collected on women during their pregnancy, whilst psychotic experiences in the offspring were assessed at age 12.
Results: There was a weak association between maternal exposure to life events and psychotic experiences at twelve years (crude OR 1.10 95% CI 1.02-1.18) per quartile of life event score. This association was not reduced after adjustment for socio-economic status, family history of schizophrenia, maternal education or birth weight but after adjustment for maternal anxiety and depression and smoking in early pregnancy there was no longer any evidence for an association (OR 1.01 95% CI 0.93-1.10).
Conclusion: This study provides some evidence to suggest that stressful life events may affect child psychotic experiences through effects on maternal psychopathology, and possibly physiology, during pregnancy. (C) 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- Life events
- HPA axis
- Perinatal psychiatry
- Child psychiatry
- DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS
- PRENATAL STRESS