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Maternal anxiety, depression and sleep disorders before and during pregnancy, and preschool ADHD symptoms in the NINFEA birth cohort study

  • L. Vizzini (a1), M. Popovic (a1), D. Zugna (a1), B. Vitiello (a2), M. Trevisan (a1), C. Pizzi (a1), F. Rusconi (a3), L. Gagliardi (a4), F. Merletti (a1) and L. Richiardi (a1)...



Maternal mental disorders have been associated with the risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Within the context of a mother–child cohort, we examined whether maternal anxiety, depression and sleep disorders are associated with pre-school ADHD symptoms.


The study included 3634 singletons from the Italian NINFEA (Nascita e INFanzia: gli Effetti dell'Ambiente’) cohort. Maternal doctor-diagnosed anxiety, depression and sleep disorders before and during pregnancy were assessed from the questionnaires completed during pregnancy and 6 months after delivery. Mothers rated child ADHD symptoms at 4 years of age, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Hyperactive–impulsive (ADHD-H), inattentive (ADHD-I) and total ADHD scores were analysed in the models adjusted for child's gender, first-born status, maternal age, education, alcohol consumption and smoking during pregnancy.


The total ADHD score at age 4 was associated with maternal lifetime anxiety (17.1% percentage difference in score compared with never; 95% CI 7.3–27.9%), sleep disorders (35.7%; 95% CI 10.7–66.5%) and depression (17.5%; 95% CI 3.2–33.8%). Similar positive associations were observed also for ADHD-H and ADHD-I traits, with slightly attenuated associations between maternal sleep disorders and child ADHD-I score, and maternal depression and both ADHD scores. All the estimates were enhanced when the disorders were active during pregnancy and attenuated for disorders active only during the pre-pregnancy period.


Maternal anxiety, depression and sleep disorders are associated with a relative increase in the number of ADHD-H, ADHD-I and total ADHD symptoms in preschoolers.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: L. Vizzini, Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Department of Medical Sciences, University of Turin and CPO-Piemonte, Turin, Italy. (Email:


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