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Studies show associations between prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) and child autism, with little attention paid to PNMS and autism in young adulthood. The broad autism phenotype (BAP), encompassing sub-clinical levels of autism, includes aloof personality, pragmatic language impairment and rigid personality. It remains unclear whether different aspects of PNMS explain variance in different BAP domains in young adult offspring. We recruited women who were pregnant during, or within 3 months of, the 1998 Quebec ice storm crisis, and assessed three aspects of their stress (i.e., objective hardship, subjective distress and cognitive appraisal). At age 19, the young adult offspring (n = 33, 22F / 11M) completed a BAP self-report. Linear and logistic regressions were implemented to examine associations between PNMS and BAP traits. Up to 21.4% of the variance in BAP total score and in BAP three domains tended to be explained by at least one aspect of maternal stress, For example, 16.8% of the variance in aloof personality tended to be explained by maternal objective hardship; 15.1% of the variance in pragmatic language impairment tended to be explained by maternal subjective distress; 20.0% of the variance in rigid personality tended to be explained by maternal objective hardship and 14.3% by maternal cognitive appraisal. Given the small sample size, the results should be interpreted with caution. In conclusion, this small prospective study suggests that different aspects of maternal stress could have differential effects on different components of BAP traits in young adults.
Prenatal maternal stress and mental health problems are known to increase risk for developmental psychopathology in offspring, yet pathways leading to risk or resiliency are poorly understood. In a quasi-experimental design, we prospectively examined associations between disaster-related prenatal stress, maternal mental health symptoms, and infant temperament outcomes. Mothers who were pregnant during Hurricane Harvey (N = 527) reported on objective hardships (e.g., loss of belongings or income, evacuation, home flooding) related to the storm and subsequent mental health symptoms (anxiety/depression, posttraumatic stress) across time. At a postpartum assessment, mothers reported on their infant’s temperament (negative affect, positive affect, orienting/regulatory capacity). Greater objective hardship indirectly predicted higher levels of infant orienting/regulatory capacity through its association with increased maternal posttraumatic stress symptoms. Greater objective hardship also indirectly predicted higher levels of infant negative affect through its association with increased maternal anxiety/depression symptoms across time. Our findings suggest a psychological mechanism linking prenatal stress with specific temperamental characteristics via maternal mental health symptoms. Findings point to the importance of high-quality assessment and mental health services for vulnerable women and young children.
Numerous studies have shown associations between maternal stress and poor birth outcomes, but evidence is unclear for causal inference. Natural disasters provide an opportunity to study effects of quasi-randomized hardship with an accurate measure of onset and duration. In a population-based quasi-experimental study, we examined the effect of maternal exposure to the January 1998 Québec ice storm on birth outcomes by comparing pregnant mothers who lived in an area hard hit by the ice storm with those in two unaffected regions. In a total of 147,349 singleton births between 1995 and 2001, we used a difference-in-differences method to estimate the effects of the ice storm on gestational age at delivery (GA), preterm birth (PTB), weight-for-gestational-age z-scores (BWZ), large for gestational age (LGA), and small for gestational age (SGA). After adjusting for maternal and sociodemographic characteristics, there were no differences between the exposed and the unexposed mothers for birth outcomes. The estimated differences (exposed vs. unexposed) were 0.01 SDs (95% CI: −0.02, 0.05) for BWZ; 0.10% point (95% CI: −0.95%, 1.16%) for SGA; 0.25% point (95% CI: −0.78%, 1.28%) for LGA; −0.01 week (95% CI: −0.07, 0.05) for GA; and 0.16% point (95% CI: −0.66%, 0.97%) for PTB. Neither trimester-specific nor dose–response associations were observed. Overall, exposure to the 1998 Québec ice storm as a proxy for acute maternal stress in pregnancy was not associated with poor birth outcomes. Our results suggest that acute maternal hardship may not have a substantial effect on adverse birth outcomes.
Expressive writing requires journaling stressor-related thoughts and feelings over four daily sessions of 15 min. Thirty years of research have popularized expressive writing as a brief intervention for fostering trauma-related resilience; however, its ability to surpass placebo remains unclear. This study aimed to determine the efficacy of expressive writing for improving post-traumatic stress symptoms in perinatal women who were living in the Houston area during major flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.
A total of 1090 women were randomly allocated (1:1:1) to expressive writing, neutral writing or no writing. Interventions were internet-based. Online questionnaires were completed before randomization and at 2 months post-intervention. The primary outcome was post-traumatic stress symptoms, measured with the Impact of Event Scale-Revised; secondary outcomes were affective symptoms, measured with the 40-item Inventory of Depression and Anxiety Scales. Feelings throughout the intervention were reported daily using tailored questionnaires.
In intention-to-treat analyses, no post-treatment between-group differences were found on the primary and secondary outcomes. Per-protocol analyses yielded similar results. A number of putative moderators were tested, but none interacted with expressive writing. Expressive writing produced greater feelings of anxiety and sadness during the intervention compared to neutral writing; further, overall experiences from the intervention mediated associations between expressive writing and greater post-traumatic stress at 2 months post-intervention.
Among disaster-stricken perinatal women, expressive writing was ineffective in reducing levels of post-traumatic stress, and may have exacerbated these symptoms in some.
The perinatal period is a vulnerable time for the development of psychopathology, particularly mood and anxiety disorders. In the study of maternal anxiety, important questions remain regarding the association between maternal anxiety symptoms and subsequent child outcomes. This study examined the association between depressive and anxiety symptoms, namely social anxiety, panic, and agoraphobia disorder symptoms during the perinatal period and maternal perception of child behavior, specifically different facets of development and temperament. Participants (N = 104) were recruited during pregnancy from a community sample. Participants completed clinician-administered and self-report measures of depressive and anxiety symptoms during the third trimester of pregnancy and at 16 months postpartum; child behavior and temperament outcomes were assessed at 16 months postpartum. Child development areas included gross and fine motor skills, language and problem-solving abilities, and personal/social skills. Child temperament domains included surgency, negative affectivity, and effortful control. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses demonstrated that elevated prenatal social anxiety symptoms significantly predicted more negative maternal report of child behavior across most measured domains. Elevated prenatal social anxiety and panic symptoms predicted more negative maternal report of child effortful control. Depressive and agoraphobia symptoms were not significant predictors of child outcomes. Elevated anxiety symptoms appear to have a distinct association with maternal report of child development and temperament. Considering the relative influence of anxiety symptoms, particularly social anxiety, on maternal report of child behavior and temperament can help to identify potential difficulties early on in mother–child interactions as well as inform interventions for women and their families.
The 5-HTTLPR polymorphism of the serotonin transporter has been shown to play a role in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Moreover, disaster-related prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) has also been shown to be associated with ASD. However, no study to date has examined whether these two factors, either individually or in combination, are predictive of ASD traits in the same sample. We hypothesized that children, particularly boys, with the LL genotype exposed to high levels of disaster-related PNMS would exhibit higher levels of ASD traits compared to boys with the LS or SS genotypes and girls regardless of genotype. Genotype and ASD levels obtained using the Australian normed Autism Spectrum Rating Scales – Short Form were available for 105 30-month-old children exposed to varying levels of PNMS following the 2011 Queensland Flood. For boys, higher ASD traits were associated with the 5-HTTLPR LL genotype in combination with either a negative maternal appraisal of the flood, or high levels of maternal composite subjective stress, PSTD-like or peritraumatic dissociation symptoms. For girls, maternal peritraumatic dissociation levels in combination with the 5-HTTLPR LS or SS genotype were associated with higher ASD traits. The present findings are the first to demonstrate that children’s genotype moderates effects of disaster-related PNMS on ASD traits, with different pattern according to child sex.
It is possible that findings suggesting a link between prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) and anxiety symptoms in offspring are confounded by postnatal and/or shared mother–child heritability effects. Following exposure to a natural disaster, the Queensland Flood Study investigated the unique and additive effects of various types of disaster-related PNMS (objective hardship, cognitive appraisal, and subjective distress) on childhood anxiety symptomatology (internalizing and/or anxiety symptom measures). Timing of flood exposure during pregnancy and child sex were examined as potential moderators. After controlling for maternal psychosocial factors, greater objective hardship as a result of the floods was significantly associated with greater anxiety symptoms (N = 114) and marginally associated with greater internalizing behaviors (N = 115). Earlier timing of the flood in pregnancy was associated with greater anxiety symptoms. No such associations were found between any PNMS measure and teacher-rated child internalizing behaviors (N = 90). Sex and timing did not moderate associations. Our findings suggest that, in isolation, increased maternal hardship due to exposure to an independent stressor, during pregnancy, may have a programming effect on childhood anxiety symptoms.
Prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) has been associated with postnatal behavioral alterations that may be partly explained by interactions between the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) and hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal (HPG) axes. Yet it remains unclear whether PNMS leads to enduring HPA–HPG alterations in the offspring, and whether HPA–HPG interactions can impact behavior during development, in particular levels of aggression in childhood. Here we investigated the relationship between a marker for HPG axis function (baseline testosterone) and a marker for HPA axis response (cortisol area under the curve) in 11½-year-olds whose mothers were exposed to the 1998 Quebec ice storm during pregnancy (n = 59 children; 31 boys, 28 girls). We examined (a) whether the degree of objective or subjective PNMS regulates the testosterone–cortisol relationship at age 11½, and (b) whether this testosterone–cortisol relationship is associated with differences in aggressive behavior. We found that, at lower levels of subjective PNMS, baseline testosterone and cortisol reactivity were positively correlated; in contrast, there was no relationship between these hormones at higher levels of subjective PNMS. Cortisol response moderated the relationship between testosterone and aggression. These results support the notion PNMS may explain variance in fetal HPA–HPG interactions, and that these interactions may be associated with aggressive behavior in late childhood.
The association between n-3 PUFA intake and type 2 diabetes (T2D) is unclear, and studies relating objective biomarkers of n-3 PUFA consumption to diabetic status remain limited. The aim of this study was to determine whether erythrocyte n-3 PUFA levels (n-3 index; n-3I) are associated with T2D in a cohort of older adults (n 608). To achieve this, the n-3I (erythrocyte %EPA+%DHA) was determined by GC and associated with fasting blood glucose; HbA1c; and plasma insulin. Insulin resistance (IR) was assessed using the homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA--IR). OR for T2D were calculated for each quartile of n-3I. In all, eighty-two type 2 diabetic (46·3 % female; 76·7 (sd 5·9) years) and 466 non-diabetic (57·9 % female; 77·8 (sd 7·1) years) individuals were included in the analysis. In overweight/obese (BMI≥27 kg/m2), the prevalence of T2D decreased across ascending n-3I quartiles: 1·0 (reference), 0·82 (95 % CI 0·31, 2·18), 0·56 (95 % CI 0·21, 1·52) and 0·22 (95 % CI 0·06, 0·82) (Ptrend=0·015). A similar but non-significant trend was seen in overweight men. After adjusting for BMI, no associations were found between n-3I and fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, insulin or HOMA-IR. In conclusion, higher erythrocyte n-3 PUFA status may be protective against the development of T2D in overweight women. Further research is warranted to determine whether dietary interventions that improve n-3 PUFA status can improve measures of IR, and to further elucidate sex-dependent differences.
To examine the use of vitamin D supplements during infancy among the participants in an international infant feeding trial.
Information about vitamin D supplementation was collected through a validated FFQ at the age of 2 weeks and monthly between the ages of 1 month and 6 months.
Infants (n 2159) with a biological family member affected by type 1 diabetes and with increased human leucocyte antigen-conferred susceptibility to type 1 diabetes from twelve European countries, the USA, Canada and Australia.
Daily use of vitamin D supplements was common during the first 6 months of life in Northern and Central Europe (>80 % of the infants), with somewhat lower rates observed in Southern Europe (>60 %). In Canada, vitamin D supplementation was more common among exclusively breast-fed than other infants (e.g. 71 % v. 44 % at 6 months of age). Less than 2 % of infants in the USA and Australia received any vitamin D supplementation. Higher gestational age, older maternal age and longer maternal education were study-wide associated with greater use of vitamin D supplements.
Most of the infants received vitamin D supplements during the first 6 months of life in the European countries, whereas in Canada only half and in the USA and Australia very few were given supplementation.
The least infringement principle has been widely endorsed by public health scholars. According to this principle, public health policies may infringe upon “general moral considerations” in order to achieve a public health goal, but if two policies provide the same public health benefit, then policymakers should choose the one that infringes least upon “general moral considerations.” General moral considerations can encompass a wide variety of goals, including fair distribution of burdens and benefits, protection of privacy and confidentiality, and respect for autonomy.
In this article, we argue that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2006 HIV screening recommendations (“Recommendations”) may violate the least infringement principle. This is a concern because, although not legally binding, the Recommendations appear to have already influenced state laws and will likely continue to do so as legislative proposals continue to be passed. At a minimum, therefore, the Recommendations have important implications for HIV screening within the United States.
Dermatoglyphic asymmetry of fingertip ridge counts is more frequent in schizophrenia patients than normal controls, and may reflect disruptions in fetal development during Weeks 14–22 when fingerprints develop. However, there are no data in humans linking specific adverse events at specific times to dermatoglyphic asymmetries. Our objective was to determine whether prenatal exposure to a natural disaster (1998 Quebec ice storm) during Weeks 14–22 would result in increased dermatoglyphic asymmetry in children, and to determine the roles of maternal objective stress exposure, subjective stress reaction, and postdisaster cortisol. Ridge counts for homologous fingers were scored for 77 children (20 target exposed [Weeks 14–22] and 57 nontarget exposed [exposed during other gestation weeks]). Children in the target group had more than 0.50 SD greater asymmetry than the nontarget group. Within the target group, children whose mothers had high subjective ice storm stress had significantly greater asymmetry than those with lower stress mothers, and maternal postdisaster cortisol had a significant negative correlation with the children's dermatoglyphic asymmetry (r = −.56). Prenatal maternal stress during the period of fingerprint development results in greater dermatoglyphic asymmetry in their children, especially in the face of greater maternal distress.
Background. Deficits in prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response have been suggested as a potentially useful endophenotype for schizophrenia spectrum disorders and may explain certain symptoms and cognitive deficits observed in the psychoses. PPI deficits have also been found in mania, but it remains to be confirmed whether this dysfunction is present in the euthymic phase of bipolar disorder.
Method. Twenty-three adult patients with DSM-IV bipolar disorder were compared to 20 controls on tests of acoustic startle reactivity and PPI of the startle response. Sociodemographic and treatment variables were recorded and symptom scores assessed using the Hamilton Depression Inventory and the Young Mania Rating Scale.
Results. Overall, the patient and control groups demonstrated similar levels of startle reactivity and PPI, although there was a trend for the inter-stimulus interval to differentially affect levels of PPI in the two groups.
Conclusions. In contrast to bipolar patients experiencing a manic episode, general levels of PPI were normal in this euthymic sample. Further studies are required to confirm this finding and to determine the mechanisms by which this potential disruption/normalization occurs. It is suggested that an examination of PPI in a high-risk group is required to fully discount dysfunctional PPI as a potentially useful endophenotype for bipolar disorder.
Objectives: It is increasingly important to develop predictors of treatment response and outcome in schizophrenia. Neuropsychological impairments, particularly those reflecting frontal lobe function, appear to predict poor outcome. Eye movement abnormalities probably also reflect frontal lobe deficits. We wished to see if these two aspects of schizophrenia were correlated and whether they could distinguish a treatment resistant from a treatment responsive group.
Methods: Ten treatment resistant schizophrenic patients were compared with ten treatment responsive patients on three eye movement paradigms (reflexive saccades, antisaccades and smooth pursuit), clinical psychopathology (BPRS, SANS and CGI) and a neuropsychological test battery designed to detect frontal lobe dysfunction. Ten aged-matched controls also carried out the eye movement tasks.
Results: Both treatment responsive (p = 0.038) and treatment resistant (p = 0.007) patients differed significantly from controls on the antisaccade task. The treatment resistant group had a higher error rate than the treatment responsive group, but the difference was not statistically significant. Similar poor neuropsychological test performance was found in both groups.
Conclusions: To demonstrate the biological differences characteristic of treatment resistance, larger sample sizes and wider differences in outcome between the two groups are necessary.
The aim of the present study was to examine the effect of stressors and other factors on psychotropic drug consumption among the elderly, with an emphasis on individual rather than social factors. Respondents were recipients of a home care program that focusses on personal care rather than health-related care. Data were derived from two in-home interviews (one week apart) of 99 users of psychotropic drugs residing in a socially deprived suburb of a major Canadian city. The initial path-analytic model explained a significant amount (19%) of variance in the amount of drug use. Age, sex, attitudes towards psychotropic drug use, and life events were the predictors which remained in our trimmed model of drug use which explained 17 per cent of the variance. The results suggest that younger individuals reported greater drug use than older respondents. Positive attitudes towards psychotropics and being female were associated with the highest level of drug use. Path analysis did not support our hypothesis of a stress-related mental health model of drug use and, instead, raised important questions regarding social factors. Several explanations for the results are discussed. Suggestions for future study and clinical implications are offered.
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