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Whether maternal obesity and gestational weight gain (GWG) are associated with early-childhood development in low-income, urban, minority populations, and whether effects differ by child sex remain unknown. This study examined the impact of prepregnancy BMI and GWG on early childhood neurodevelopment in the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Mothers and Newborns study. Maternal prepregnancy weight was obtained by self-report, and GWG was assessed from participant medical charts. At child age 3 years, the Psychomotor Development Index (PDI) and Mental Development Index (MDI) of the Bayley Scales of Infant Intelligence were completed. Sex-stratified linear regression models assessed associations between prepregnancy BMI and pregnancy weight gain z-scores with child PDI and MDI scores, adjusting for covariates. Of 382 women, 48.2% were normal weight before pregnancy, 24.1% overweight, 23.0% obese, and 4.7% underweight. At 3 years, mean scores on the PDI and MDI were higher among girls compared to boys (PDI: 102.3 vs. 97.2, P = 0.0002; MDI: 92.8 vs. 88.3, P = 0.0001). In covariate-adjusted models, maternal obesity was markedly associated with lower PDI scores in boys [b = −7.81, 95% CI: (−13.08, −2.55), P = 0.004], but not girls. Maternal BMI was not associated with MDI in girls or boys, and GWG was not associated with PDI or MDI among either sex (all-P > 0.05). We found that prepregnancy obesity was associated with lower PDI scores at 3 years in boys, but not girls. The mechanisms underlying this sex-specific association remain unclear, but due to elevated obesity exposure in urban populations, further investigation is warranted.
In this chapter, we argue that the timing of societal events in an individual’s life plays a major role in shaping that life through interacting developmental processes at multiple levels. We focus on classic research by Elder showing how two such events in historical proximity dramatically altered the lives of California children who were born at opposite ends of the 1920s, 1920–21 and 1928–29, the Great Depression of the 1930s followed by World War II (1941–45) and the Korean War (1950–53). We employ insights from both Elder’s cohort historical life course approach and developmental science including recent work on developmental neuroscience to understand the life-long impact of exposure to events that occur at different times in life, and the mechanisms through which these exposures may influence development, as well as experiences that may provide turning points in development.
Youth who immigrate to the US navigate unique and increasingly complex challenges. These challenges include stressful or unsafe sociopolitical pre-migration contexts, protracted or unpredictable migration processes, and post-migration stressors while adapting to a new culture. In this chapter, we examine such effects of immigration and acculturation on children in different historical periods. The example of migration from Mexico to the US is used to illustrate how our historical perspectives change and shape developmental possibilities and experiences for children. Our recent historical perspective embraced the goal of assimilating children and families into the US host culture, with little adherence to the values and traditions of the culture of origin. Over time this perspective has shifted to the current view that the goal of acculturation should be a bicultural one. Implications of various migratory paths for children’s adjustment are discussed, as are the developmental implications of current policies related to migration.
We developed the Long-term Early Development Research (LEADER) project to investigate the development of children with CHD and/or after cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Both populations are at risk for delays in motor, cognitive, and language development. However, few studies to date have investigated the longitudinal development in these children.
To establish a clinical research unit, we planned three studies: a cross-sectional study in children after cardiopulmonary resuscitation (LEADER-REA Pilot Study), a longitudinal study in children after cardiopulmonary resuscitation, with a focus on evaluating various biomarkers as predictors for developmental outcome (LEADER-CPR study), and a longitudinal study in children with ventricular septal defect, tetralogy of Fallot, or transposition of the great arteries after cardiac surgery (LEADER-CHD study).
Implementation of all three LEADER studies was successful and study protocols were conducted as planned. Findings from the LEADER-REA Pilot study have been recently published and data collection for both prospective trials is ongoing. Descriptive analysis of the first 20 assessments of the LEADER-CHD study showed no severe deficits in overall cognitive, motor, and language developments in the children.
Children with CHD and/or after cardiopulmonary resuscitation are at risk for developmental delay. Therefore, a detailed developmental assessment is necessary as a pre-requisite for individual developmental support. Our LEADER project has been shown to be feasible in a clinical setting and is the first step towards the establishment of a clinical research unit in our clinic with a focus on longitudinal research.
It is well known that severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy may cause impaired brain development in the child, with effects on cognitive and motor function, hearing and speech. Whether mild-to-moderate deficiency also affects neurological development is less well known, but in the past decade a number of observational studies have been conducted to answer this question and these studies are reviewed in this article. The picture is now emerging that even mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency during pregnancy may be associated with subtle impairments in cognition and school performance, although the evidence from randomised controlled trials is still lacking. As global efforts to eradicate iodine deficiency in populations continue, it is more likely that mild-to-moderate, rather than severe, iodine deficiency will be the issue of concern in pregnancy, and therefore further research in regions of mild-to-moderate deficiency is required to strengthen the research base and to inform public-health policy.
Mapuche represents the largest indigenous group in Chile amounting to nearly 10% of the total population. In a longitudinal cohort of 12,398 children, we analyzed the role of ethnicity in physical and psychosocial development of Mapuche and nonindigenous Chilean toddlers (age 2.5 years), taking into account sociodemographic and caregiver characteristics. As indicated by our univariate analysis, the Mapuche developmental niche was characterized by lower income, lower maternal education, poorer quality of the home environment, longer breastfeeding, and higher parental stress. Physical development showed higher body mass index. Mapuche children showed less externalizing problems. We then analyzed the incremental contribution of ethnicity in a series of hierarchical regressions with the second wave of developmental measurements (age 4.5 years) as outcome variables, showing a significant but modest incremental contribution of ethnicity to the prediction of children's development between 2.5 and 4.5 years of age. Controlling for environmental variables, Mapuche showed less externalizing and internalizing, behavior problems. Socioeconomic status, quality of the home environment, and parenting stress were stronger predictors of socioemotional development than ethnicity per se.
The hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPAA) plays a critical role in the functioning of all other biological systems. Thus, studying how the environment may influence its ontogeny is paramount to understanding developmental origins of health and disease. The early post-conceptional (EPC) period could be particularly important for the HPAA as the effects of exposures on organisms’ first cells can be transmitted through all cell lineages. We evaluate putative relationships between EPC maternal cortisol levels, a marker of physiologic stress, and their children’s pre-pubertal HPAA activity (n=22 dyads). Maternal first-morning urinary (FMU) cortisol, collected every-other-day during the first 8 weeks post-conception, was associated with children’s FMU cortisol collected daily around the start of the school year, a non-experimental challenge, as well as salivary cortisol responses to an experimental challenge (all Ps<0.05), with some sex-related differences. We investigated whether epigenetic mechanisms statistically mediated these links and, therefore, could provide cues as to possible biological pathways involved. EPC cortisol was associated with >5% change in children’s buccal epithelial cells’ DNA methylation for 867 sites, while children’s HPAA activity was associated with five CpG sites. Yet, no CpG sites were related to both, EPC cortisol and children’s HPAA activity. Thus, these epigenetic modifications did not statistically mediate the observed physiological links. Larger, prospective peri-conceptional cohort studies including frequent bio-specimen collection from mothers and children will be required to replicate our analyses and, if our results are confirmed, identify biological mechanisms mediating the statistical links observed between maternal EPC cortisol and children’s HPAA activity.
Picky eating is a common behaviour in early childhood. There is neither a universally accepted definition of picky eating, nor is there agreement on the best tool to identify it. Causes of picky eating include early feeding difficulties, late introduction of lumpy foods at weaning, pressure to eat and early choosiness, especially if the mother is worried by this; protective factors include the provision of fresh foods and eating the same meal as the child. The consequences for the child's diet include poor dietary variety and a possible distortion of nutrient intakes, with low intakes of iron and zinc (associated with low intakes of meat, and fruit and vegetables) being of particular concern. Low intakes of dietary fibre, as a result of low intakes of fruit and vegetables, are associated with constipation in picky eaters. There may be developmental difficulties in some children with persistent picky eating. There is little evidence, however, for a consistent effect of being a picky eater on growth trajectories. There may be a small subgroup of children in whom picky eating does not resolve who might be at risk of thinness during adolescence, or of developing an eating disorder or adult picky eating: these children need to be identified at an early age to enable support, monitoring and advice to be offered to parents. Strategies for avoiding or ameliorating picky eating include repeated exposures to unfamiliar foods, parental modelling of eating fruit and vegetables and unfamiliar foods, and the creation of positive social experiences around mealtimes.
The parent–child bond known as attachment plays a pivotal role in the development and wellbeing of all young children. While research indicates that there are challenges for children with a disability in developing a secure attachment, little is known about early childhood intervention (ECI) professionals’ knowledge of attachment, how they view its importance in their work, and how they translate this knowledge into practice. To address this gap in research, a questionnaire was developed and administered to ECI professionals at an Australian ECI organisation. Qualitative analysis of results (N = 49) revealed an overall understanding of the role of attachment in child development and indicated that ECI professionals perceive attachment as being very important in their role of enhancing children's learning and wellbeing. Importantly, it emerged that less than half the participants learnt about attachment in their undergraduate training, with most learning about it ‘on the job’ and just over half the respondents felt comfortable in addressing attachment concerns with families. Some families are thus left at risk of being inadequately supported to manage attachment problems. Participants identified a desire for further training. This exploratory study has implications for orientation, training, practice, and further research.
There is limited evidence on the association between maternal preconception body mass index (BMI) trajectories and pregnancy complications and child development. This study examined the relationships of maternal BMI trajectories, diabetes and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy and offspring’s childhood physical and cognitive development. Data were from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health and the Mothers and their Children’s Health study (n=771). Women’s preconception BMI trajectories were identified using group-based trajectory modelling. Children’s physical and cognitive development (up to the average age of 5 years) were obtained from the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (suspected gross motor delay) and the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). Generalized estimating equation models, adjusted for maternal sociodemographic and lifestyle factors, were used for analyses. Three distinct BMI trajectories were identified (normative, chronically overweight and chronically obese). Children born to chronically obese women were more likely to be classified as developmentally vulnerable/at-risk on AEDC domains; gross and fine motor skills [risk ratio (RR)=1.64, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.04, 2.61] and communication skills and general knowledge (RR=1.71, 95% CI: 1.09, 2.68). They also had an elevated risk of suspected gross motor delay (RR=2.62, 95% CI: 1.26, 5.44) compared with children born to women with a normative BMI trajectory. Maternal diabetes or hypertensive disorders during pregnancy were not associated with child outcomes. Maternal preconception BMI trajectories were associated with poorer childhood development. This study finding underscores the importance of excessive weight gain prevention throughout the reproductive stage of life.
Research demonstrates the importance of nutrition for early brain development. Few studies have examined the effectiveness of multiple micronutrient powders (MNP) on child development. This study examined the impacts of home fortification with MNP on motor and mental development, executive function and memory of children living in Bihar. This two-arm cluster-randomised effectiveness trial selected seventy health sub-centres to receive either MNP and nutrition counselling (intervention) or nutrition counselling alone (control) for 12 months. Front-line health workers delivered the intervention to all households in study communities with a child aged 6–18 months. Data were collected using cross-sectional surveys at baseline and endline by selecting households from intervention (baseline, n 2184; endline, n 2170) and control (baseline, n 2176; endline, n 2122) communities using a two-stage cluster-randomised sampling strategy. Children in the intervention group had a significantly larger improvement from baseline to endline compared with those in the control group on scores for motor and mental development (Cohen’s d, motor=0·12; 95 % CI 0·03, 0·22; mental=0·15; 95 % CI 0·06, 0·25). Greater impacts of MNP on motor and mental development were observed in children from households with higher stimulation scores at baseline compared with those with lower stimulation (Cohen’s d, motor=0·20 v. 0·09; mental=0·22 v. 0·14; Pinteraction<0·05). No significant treatment differences were seen for executive function or memory. Home fortification with MNP through the existing health infrastructure in Bihar was effective in improving motor and mental development and should be considered in combination with other child development interventions such as stimulation.
Psychological distress is common among women of childbearing age, and limited longitudinal research suggests prolonged exposure to maternal distress is linked to child mental health problems. Estimating effects of maternal distress over time is difficult due to potential influences of child mental health problems on maternal distress and time-varying confounding by family circumstances.
We analysed the UK Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative sample with data collected throughout childhood. Adopting a marginal structural modelling framework, we investigated effects of exposure to medium/high levels of maternal psychological distress (Kessler-6 score 8+) on child mental health problems (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire borderline/abnormal behaviour cut-off) using maternal and child mental health data at 3, 5, 7 and 11 years, accounting for the influence of child mental health on subsequent maternal distress, and baseline and time-varying confounding.
Prior and concurrent exposures to maternal distress were associated with higher levels of child mental health problems at ages 3, 5, 7 and 11 years. For example, elevated risks of child mental health problems at 11 years were associated with exposure to maternal distress from 3 years [risk ratio (RR) 1.27 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.08–1.49)] to 11 years [RR 2.15 (95% CI 1.89–2.45)]. Prolonged exposure to maternal distress at ages 3, 5, 7 and 11 resulted in an almost fivefold increased risk of child mental health problems.
Prior, concurrent and, particularly, prolonged exposure to maternal distress raises risks for child mental health problems. Greater support for mothers experiencing distress is likely to benefit the mental health of their children.
Early nutrition and growth have been found to be important early exposures for later development. Studies of crude growth in terms of weight and length/height, however, cannot elucidate how body composition (BC) might mediate associations between nutrition and later development. In this study, we aimed to examine the relation between fat mass (FM) or fat-free mass (FFM) tissues at birth and their accretion during early infancy, and later developmental progression. In a birth cohort from Ethiopia, 455 children who have BC measurement at birth and 416 who have standardised rate of BC growth during infancy were followed up for outcome variable, and were included in the statistical analysis. The study sample was restricted to mothers living in Jimma town who gave birth to a term baby with a birth weight ≥1500 g and no evident congenital anomalies. The relationship between the exposure and outcome variables was examined using linear-mixed regression model. The finding revealed that FFM at birth was positively associated with global developmental progression from 1 to 5 years (β=1·75; 95 % CI 0·11, 3·39) and from 4 to 5 years (β=1·34; 95 % CI 0·23, 2·44) in the adjusted model. Furthermore, the rate of postnatal FFM tissue accretion was positively associated with development at 1 year of age (β=0·50; 95 % CI 0·01, 0·99). Neither fetal nor postnatal FM showed a significant association. In conclusion, fetal, rather than postnatal, FFM tissue accretion was associated with developmental progression. Intervention studies are needed to assess whether nutrition interventions increasing FFM also increase cognitive development.
We are a group of researchers and clinicians with collective experience in child survival, nutrition, cognitive and social development, and treatment of common mental conditions. We join together to welcome an expanded definition of child development to guide global approaches to child health and overall social development. We call for resolve to integrate maternal and child mental health with child health, nutrition, and development services and policies, and see this as fundamental to the health and sustainable development of societies. We suggest specific steps toward achieving this objective, with associated global organizational and resource commitments. In particular, we call for a Global Planning Summit to establish a much needed Global Alliance for Child Development and Mental Health in all Policies.
To determine the effects of lipid-based nutrient supplements (LNS) on children’s Hb, linear growth and development, compared with supplementation with micronutrient powder (MNP).
The study was a two-arm parallel-group randomized controlled trial, where participants received either LNS or MNP for daily consumption during 6 months. Supplements were delivered by staff at government-run health centres. Hb, anthropometric, motor development, language development and problem-solving indicators were measured by trained research assistants when children were 12 months of age.
The study was conducted in five rural districts in the Province of Ambo in the Department of Huánuco, Peru.
We enrolled 6-month-old children (n 422) at nineteen health centres.
Children who received LNS had a higher mean Hb concentration and lower odds of anaemia than those who received MNP. No significant differences in height-for-age, weight-for-height or weight-for-age Z-score, or stunting and underweight prevalence, were observed. Provision of LNS was associated with a higher pre-verbal language (gestures) score, but such effect lost significance after adjustment for covariates. Children in the LNS group had higher problem-solving task scores and increased odds of achieving this cognitive task than children in the MNP group. No significant differences were observed on receptive language or gross motor development.
LNS between 6 and 12 months of age increased Hb concentration, reduced anaemia and improved cognitive development in children, but showed no effects on anthropometric indicators, motor or language development.
Social media is increasingly being used in research, including recruitment.
For the Bayley Short Form Formative Study, which was conducted under the the National Children’s Study, traditional methods of recruitment proved to be ineffective. Therefore, digital media were identified as potential channels for recruitment.
Results included successful recruitment of over 1800 infant and toddler participants to the Study.
This paper outlines the methods, results, and future research opportunities.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which play a vital role in fetal growth and development. In utero exposure to omega-3 fatty acids is exclusively dependent on maternal nutrition. Previous studies have suggested that prenatal fish oil supplementation has positive impacts on child neurodevelopment later in life. This study examines the associations between fish oil supplementation both before pregnancy and throughout pregnancy and subsequent child development. Mother–child pairs from the Upstate KIDS Study, a birth cohort consisting of children born between 2008 and 2010, were included. Self-reported prenatal fish oil supplementation data were available for 5845 children (3807 singletons and 2038 twins). At multiple time points, from 4 months to 3 years of age, child development was reported by the parents on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). Five developmental domains were assessed: fine motor, gross motor, communication, personal–social functioning and problem solving. Generalized linear mixed models were used to estimate odds ratios (OR) while adjusting for covariates. Primary analyses showed that the risk of failing the ASQ problem-solving domain was significantly lower among children of women who took fish oil before pregnancy (OR 0.40, 95% confidence intervals (CI) 0.18–0.89) and during pregnancy (OR 0.43, 95% CI 0.22–0.83). Gender interaction was not statistically significant, although stratified results indicated stronger associations among girls. Similarly, associations were primarily among singletons. Prenatal fish oil supplementation may be beneficial in regards to neurodevelopment. Specifically, it is associated with a lower risk of failing the problem-solving domain up to 3 years of age.
DHA from diet or endogenous synthesis has been proposed to affect infant development, however, results are inconclusive. In this study, we aim to verify previously observed fatty acid desaturase gene cluster (FADS) SNP-specific associations with erythrocyte DHA status in 9-month-old children and sex-specific association with developmental outcomes. The study was performed in 166 children (55 % boys) of obese mothers. Erythrocyte fatty acid composition was analysed in blood-samples obtained at 9 months of age, and developmental outcomes assessed by the Ages and Stages Questionnaire at 3 years. Erythrocyte DHA level ranged from 4·4 to 9·9 % of fatty acids, but did not show any association with FADS SNP or other potential determinants. Regression analysis showed associations between erythrocyte DHA and scores for personal–social skills (β 1·8 (95 % CI 0·3, 3·3), P=0·019) and problem solving (β 3·4 (95 % CI 1·2, 5·6), P=0·003). A tendency was observed for an association in opposite direction between minor alleles (G-variant) of rs1535 and rs174575 and personal–social skills (P=0·062 and 0·068, respectively), which became significant when the SNP were combined based on their previously observed effect on erythrocyte DHA at 9 months of age (β 2·6 (95 % CI 0·01, 5·1), P=0·011). Sex–SNP interaction was indicated for rs174575 genotype on fine motor scores (P=0·016), due to higher scores among minor allele carrying girls (P=0·043), whereas no effect was seen among boys. In conclusion, DHA-increasing FADS SNP and erythrocyte DHA status were consistently associated with improved personal–social skills in this small cohort of children of obese mothers irrespective of sex, but the sample was too small to verify potential sex-specific effects.
Literature on children's internal body knowledge has consistently indicated that knowledge about the body develops in an orderly sequence with increasing age. How much children currently know about their internal organs, however, may be influenced by the increase in health and body information available through school education programmes. As there is little recent research in this area, the present study aimed to provide an update on what Australian children currently understand about their anatomy, and to corroborate the developmental trends found in previous research. One hundred and eighty-nine school children aged 7 to 12 years were asked to draw the interior of the body in a body outline provided, with a subset of 54 children also being interviewed about their understanding of their anatomy. The developmental trends found in this study were broadly consistent with those reported in the existing literature on children's inside body knowledge, and are similar to those documented with children's human figure drawing; namely, that children's body knowledge and understanding increased with age. Although awareness of the integration of internal body parts amongst children in the present study seemed more developed than suggested in previous studies, the availability of educational resources influencing children's knowledge about their internal organs remains equivocal. Nevertheless, this research has relevance for those involved in children's health awareness and education, as well as direct implications for paediatric health care procedures.
Correlation and Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of behavioral measures from two experimental tasks (Delayed Match-to-Sample and Oddball), and standard scores from a neuropsychological test battery (Working Memory Test Battery for Children) was performed on data from participants between 6–18 years old. The correlation analysis (p < .05) results showed a common maturational trend in working memory performance between these two types of tasks. Applying PCA (Eigenvalues > 1), the scores of the first extracted component were significantly correlated (p < .05) to most behavioral measures, suggesting some commonalities of the processes of age-related changes in the measured variables. The results suggest that this first component would be related to age but also to individual differences during the cognitive maturation process across childhood and adolescence stages. The fourth component would represent the speed-accuracy trade-off phenomenon as it presents loading components with different signs for reaction times and errors.