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Given the frequency with which families change residences, the effects of childhood relocations have gained increasing research attention. Many researchers have demonstrated that childhood relocations are associated with a variety of adverse outcomes. However, drawing strong causal claims remains problematic due to uncontrolled confounding factors.
We utilized longitudinal, population-based Swedish registers to generate a nationally representative sample of offspring born 1983–1997 (n = 1 510 463). Using Cox regression and logistic regression, we examined the risk for numerous adverse outcomes after childhood relocation while controlling for measured covariates. To account for unmeasured genetic and environmental confounds, we also compared differentially exposed cousins and siblings.
In the cohort baseline model, each annual relocation was associated with risk for the adverse outcomes, including suicide attempt [hazard ratio (HR) 1.19, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.19–1.20]. However, when accounting for offspring and parental covariates (HR 1.08, 95% CI 1.07–1.09), as well as genetic and environmental confounds shared by cousins (HR 1.07, 95% CI 1.05–1.09) and siblings (HR 1.00, 95% CI 0.97–1.04), the risk for suicide attempt attenuated. We found a commensurate pattern of results for severe mental illness, substance abuse, criminal convictions, and low academic achievement.
Previous research may have overemphasized the independent association between relocations and later adverse outcomes. The results suggest that the association between childhood relocations and suicide attempt, psychiatric problems, and low academic achievement is partially explained by genetic and environmental confounds correlated with relocations. This study demonstrates the importance of using family-based, quasi-experimental designs to test plausible alternate hypotheses when examining causality.
Preconception, prenatal and postnatal maternal stress is associated with increased offspring psychopathology, but findings are inconsistent and need replication. We estimated associations between maternal bereavement stress and offspring autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, suicide attempt and completed suicide.
Using Swedish registers, we conducted the largest population-based study to date examining associations between stress exposure in 738 144 offspring born 1992–2000 for childhood outcomes and 2 155 221 offspring born 1973–1997 for adult outcomes with follow-up to 2009. Maternal stress was defined as death of a first-degree relative during (a) the 6 months before conception, (b) pregnancy or (c) the first two postnatal years. Cox proportional survival analyses were used to obtain hazard ratios (HRs) in unadjusted and adjusted analyses.
Marginal increased risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia following preconception bereavement stress was not significant. Third-trimester prenatal stress increased the risk of ASD [adjusted HR (aHR) 1.58, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.15–2.17] and ADHD (aHR 1.31, 95% CI 1.04–1.66). First postnatal year stress increased the risk of offspring suicide attempt (aHR 1.13, 95% CI 1.02–1.25) and completed suicide (aHR 1.51, 95% CI 1.08–2.11). Bereavement stress during the second postnatal year increased the risk of ASD (aHR 1.30, 95% CI 1.09–1.55).
Further research is needed regarding associations between preconception stress and psychopathological outcomes. Prenatal bereavement stress increases the risk of offspring ASD and ADHD. Postnatal bereavement stress moderately increases the risk of offspring suicide attempt, completed suicide and ASD. Smaller previous studies may have overestimated associations between early stress and psychopathological outcomes.
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