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Influence of prenatal stress and postnatal maternal behaviour on child temperament and coping with stress

Baibazarova, Eugenia 2011. Influence of prenatal stress and postnatal maternal behaviour on child temperament and coping with stress. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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There is some evidence from both animal literature and human studies to suggest that maternal emotional well-being during pregnancy, as well as maternal behaviour during early childhood, can have important implications for the development of child temperament and children's distress reactivity and recovery (Albers, Riksen-Walraven, Sweep & de Weerth, 2008 Huizink, Mulder & Buitelaar, 2004 Leerkes, Blakson, and O'Brien, 2009). This thesis consists of two parts. The first part explored what measures of prenatal stress and anxiety are related to infant birth outcomes, temperament and cognition. The second part explored the role of maternal sensitivity and intrusiveness in child behavioural and endocrinological coping with stress across the first three years of life, concurrently and longitudinally. It was found that even relatively small fluctuations in prenatal stress and pregnancy- related anxiety in a normal sample of healthy women can still have an impact on infant birth outcomes and temperament in the first six months postnatally. In addition, maternal and amniotic fluid Cortisol levels during early pregnancy were positively associated, suggesting that increases in maternal Cortisol can influence Cortisol concentrations in the amniotic fluid and the foetus. In the studies on early postnatal maternal behaviour and child coping with stress, maternal sensitivity had different effects on child behavioural and Cortisol reactivity in response to stress across early childhood. For example, maternal behaviour had a direct influence on child behavioural and Cortisol reactivity to separation and novelty as well as recovery from distress however these effects were only observed children were two years old, and not when they were aged one or three years. Nevertheless, the results of the longitudinal study revealed that early maternal sensitivity can influence child behavioural and Cortisol distress reactivity when children are three years old. Children of more sensitive mothers were more reactive to separation and novelty. In addition, the longitudinal results revealed that maternal sensitivity and intrusiveness are not fixed and stable traits, but are behaviours that change over time and across different emotional states of the child during the course of early childhood. Collectively, the findings of this thesis demonstrate that small variations in prenatal stress and postnatal maternal behaviour in a normal low-risk sample can influence child temperament and coping with separation and novelty in early childhood. These findings indicate that a multi-method approach to studying maternal prenatal stress is necessary in order to obtain a better understanding of what aspects of prenatal stress are more important for child outcomes. In addition, the findings on the instability of maternal behaviour during early childhood highlight the importance of multiple assessments of sensitivity and intrusiveness in order to better capture maternal caregiving behaviour across time and its influence on child coping with stress.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
ISBN: 9781303196119
Funders: Grant Number N 575-25-01, The Netherlands;, School of Psychology, Cardiff University
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2018 20:14

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