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Experimental work in animals has shown that DNA methylation (DNAm), an epigenetic mechanism regulating gene expression, is influenced by typical variation in maternal care. While emerging research in humans supports a similar association, studies to date have been limited to candidate gene and cross-sectional approaches, with a focus on extreme deviations in the caregiving environment.
Here, we explored the prospective association between typical variation in maternal sensitivity and offspring epigenome-wide DNAm, in a population-based cohort of children (N = 235). Maternal sensitivity was observed when children were 3- and 4-years-old. DNAm, quantified with the Infinium 450 K array, was extracted at age 6 (whole blood). The influence of methylation quantitative trait loci (mQTLs), DNAm at birth (cord blood), and confounders (socioeconomic status, maternal psychopathology) was considered in follow-up analyses.
Genome-wide significant associations between maternal sensitivity and offspring DNAm were observed at 13 regions (p < 1.06 × 10−07), but not at single sites. Follow-up analyses indicated that associations at these regions were in part related to genetic factors, confounders, and baseline DNAm levels at birth, as evidenced by the presence of mQTLs at five regions and estimate attenuations. Robust associations with maternal sensitivity were found at four regions, annotated to ZBTB22, TAPBP, ZBTB12, and DOCK4.
These findings provide novel leads into the relationship between typical variation in maternal caregiving and offspring DNAm in humans, highlighting robust regions of associations, previously implicated in psychological and developmental problems, immune functioning, and stress responses.
In this Element, I first introduce intelligence in terms of historical definitions. I show that intelligence, as conceived even by the originators of the first intelligence tests, Alfred Binet and David Wechsler, is a much broader construct than just scores on narrow tests of intelligence and their proxies. I then review the major approaches to understanding intelligence and its development: the psychometric (test-based), cognitive and neurocognitive (intelligence as a set of brain-based cognitive representations and processes), systems, cultural, and developmental. These approaches, taken together, present a much more complex portrait of intelligence and its development than the one that would be ascertained just from scores on intelligence tests. Finally, I draw some take-away conclusions.
The focus of this Element is on the environment and how it is implicated in children's development.A very broad array of social and physical features connected to children's home life and to the neighborhoods where children live, including multiple aspects of parenting, housing characteristics and the increased prevalence of media in daily life are addressed.Attention is also given to the broader social, economic, and geographic contexts in which children live, such as neighborhood surroundings and conditions in less developed countries.There is a focus on how various aspects of the home context (e.g., crowding) and key parental characteristics, such as mental illness and substance abuse problems, affect the behavior of parents. Consideration also given to how various forms of chaos and instability present challenges for parents and children and how those circumstances are implicated in both children's development and caregiver behavior.
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.
This paper reviews and synthesizes key areas of research related to the etiology, development, and maintenance of internalizing symptoms in children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In developing an integrated conceptual model, we draw from current conceptual models of internalizing symptoms in ASD and extend the model to include factors related to internalizing within other populations (e.g., children that have experienced early life stress, children with other neurodevelopmental conditions, typically developing children) that have not been systematically examined in ASD. Our review highlights the need for more research to understand the developmental course of internalizing symptoms, potential moderators, and the interplay between early risk and protective factors. Longitudinal studies incorporating multiple methods and both environmental and biological factors will be important in order to elucidate these mechanisms.
This chapter defines poverty, differentiates between absolute and relative poverty, and analyzes the criticisms of these concepts. Furthermore, the chapter analyzes the effects of poverty on child development according to developmental systems theory, listing direct, moderated, mediated, transactional, and community effects. Statistics on poverty for industrialized and developing countries are provided. Subsequently, the chapter discusses the experiences of children living in poverty worldwide and focuses on the associations between bullying and poverty in industrialized countries and their implications. Finally, policies and a set of broad principles are suggested to address poverty among children and youth.
This chapter presents two research reports developed in Brazil. The first was conducted in 2014 with 854 children and adolescents with autism. This research identified that just 64 percent of the children received some kind of speech-language intervention. The second example focused on the investigation and intervention of language development and behavioral problems among four-year-old preschoolers to prevent future social and academic problems. The aim of the study was to provide early assessment and intervention in language and behavioral problems among children in regular schools. The chapter talks about how the gap between society and science may be bridged by efficient and collaborative work between universities and public services that support research useful in solving immediate problems and responding meaningfully to various situations, serving as an important tool to build capacity for social justice.
We examined associations of urine iodide excretion, proxy for iodine intake, with child development and growth.
This is a secondary analysis of a 1:1 cluster-randomised trial with a 6-month nutrition/stimulation/hygiene education intervention among mothers of children aged 6–8 months to improve child development and growth. Development was assessed using Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development–III (BSID-III) and Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), whereas anthropometry was used to assess growth. Urine iodide concentration (UIC) and urine iodide/creatinine ratio (ICR) were measured.
The current study was conducted in southern Uganda.
We randomly selected 155 children from the 511 enrolled into the original trial and analysed data when they were aged 20–24 and 36 months.
Median UIC for both study groups at 20–24 and 36 months were similar (P > 0·05) and within the normal range of 100–199 µg/l (0·79–1·60 µmol/l), whereas the intervention group had significantly higher ICR at 20–24 months. The BSID-III cognitive score was positively associated (P = 0·028) with ICR at 20–24 months in the intervention group. The ASQ gross motor score was negatively associated (P = 0·020) with ICR at 20–24 months among the controls. ICR was not significantly associated with anthropometry in the two study groups at either time-point.
Following the intervention, a positive association was noted between ICR and child’s cognitive score at 20–24 months, whereas no positive association with ICR and growth was detected. Iodine sufficiency may be important for child’s cognitive development in this setting.
Children of adolescent mothers are a high-risk group for negative child development. Previous findings suggest that early interventions may enhance child development by improving mother–child interaction. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate a mother–child intervention (STEEP-b) program in high-risk adolescent mother–infant dyads (N = 56) within a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Mother–child interaction was assessed at baseline (T1), postintervention (T2), and follow-up (T3). The primary outcome was the change in maternal sensitivity and child responsiveness from T1 to T2 that was measured by blinded ratings of videotaped mother–child-interaction with the Emotional Availability Scales. A modified intention-to-treat analysis was performed to examine the data. No intervention effect was found for maternal sensitivity, 95% CI [-0.59–0.60], p = .99, and child responsiveness, 95% CI [-0.51–0.62], p = .84. Maternal sensitivity and child responsiveness did not change over time in both groups (all ps > .05). A statistically nonsignificant, but potentially clinically meaningful difference emerged between rates of serious adverse events, SC: 4 (14.8%), STEEP-b: 1 (3.4%), possibly driven by different intensity of surveillance of dyads in the treatment groups. The current findings question the effectiveness of STEEP-b for high-risk adolescent mothers and do not justify the broad implementation of this approach.
Litter size reduction can induce early overnourishment, being an attractive experimental model to study short- and long-term consequences of childhood obesity. Epidemiological data indicate sex differences regarding cardiometabolic disorders and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The present study aimed to describe biometric, nutritional and cardiovascular changes related to neonatal overweight promoted by litter size reduction in young and adult Wistar rats of both sexes. Litter adjustment to eight or four pups/mother (1:1 male-to-female ratio) gave, respectively, control and overweight groups. Body mass, food intake, haemodynamic and echocardiographic parameters and cardiorespiratory capacity were evaluated at postnatal days 30 and 150. Diminished litters were correlated with higher body mass and weight gain (12 %) during lactation, validating the experimental model of neonatal overweight. Soon after weaning male (16 %) and female (25 %) offspring of these litters presented a lower food intake than their respective control, without differences in body mass. Adult males from reduced litters presented higher abdominal circumference (7 %), systolic blood pressure (10 %), interventricular septum thickness (15 %) and relative wall thickness (15 %) compared with their respective control. Rats' performance on the maximal effort ergometer test was not affected by neonatal overweight. Data suggest the occurrence of catch-down growth and hypophagia in male and female rats submitted to neonatal overweight. However, only male rats presented haemodynamic and cardiac structural changes. These findings are crucial to personalised/gender medicine.
American pediatricians are now bearing the brunt of massive increases in demand for treatment of mental illness in children and adolescents, areas in which many pediatricians have not been well trained. It would be logical to encourage policy measures to increase pediatricians’ expertise in this area to improve access to care. But the expanses in demand for services are about much more than increased incidence of biologically-based illnesses. Instead, pediatricians are caught juggling between their traditional focus on health and prevention and a rapid rise in broad socially, culturally, and economically mediated distress among young people and their families. This article explores the historical context of pediatricians’ engagement with mental health and the hazards of the push toward treatment for mental illness. The historical perspective can help us develop policy more directed to broader goals of improving the mental health of our nation’s children and adolescents.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) often adversely affect adaptive functioning (AF). However, the cognitive mechanisms by which AF is disrupted are not well understood in young children who sustain TBI. This study examined pragmatic language (PL) and executive functioning (EF) as potential mechanisms for AF disruption in children with early, predominantly mild-complicated, TBI.
The sample consisted of 76 children between the ages of 6 and 10 years old who sustained a TBI (n = 36) or orthopedic injury (OI; n = 40) before 6 years of age and at least 1 year prior to testing (M = 4.86 years, SD = 1.59). Children’s performance on a PL and an expressive vocabulary task (which served as a control task), and parent report of child’s EF and AF were examined at two time points 1 year apart (i.e., at age 8 and at age 9 years).
Injury type (TBI vs. OI) significantly predicted child’s social and conceptual, but not practical, AF. Results indicated that PL, and not expressive vocabulary or EF at time 1, mediated the relationship between injury type and both social and conceptual AF at time 2.
A TBI during early childhood appears to subtly, but uniquely, disrupt complex language skills (i.e., PL), which in turn may disrupt subsequent social and conceptual AF in middle childhood. Additional longitudinal research that examines different aspects of PL and adaptive outcomes into adolescence is warranted.
Few studies of the effects of postnatal depression on child development have considered the chronicity of depressive symptoms. We investigated whether early postnatal depressive symptoms (PNDS) predicted child developmental outcome independently of later maternal depressive symptoms.
In a prospective, longitudinal study, mothers and children were followed-up from birth to 2 years; repeated measures of PNDS were made using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS); child development was assessed using the Bayley Scales II. Multilevel modelling techniques were used to examine the association between 6 week PNDS, and child development, taking subsequent depressive symptoms into account.
Children of mothers with 6 week PNDS were significantly more likely than children of non-symptomatic mothers to have poor cognitive outcome; however, this association was reduced to trend level when adjusted for later maternal depressive symptoms.
Effects of early PNDS on infant development may be partly explained by subsequent depressive symptoms.
The COMT Val158Met polymorphism has been associated with anxiety and affective disorders, but its effect on anxiety-related personality traits varies between studies. Our purpose was to investigate the effect of COMT Val158Met on personality traits from adolescence to young adulthood in a population representative Caucasian birth cohort. Also its association with educational attainment and anxiety and mood disorders by the age 25 were examined. This analysis is based on the older cohort of the Estonian Children Personality Behavior and Health Study (original number of subjects 593). The personality traits were assessed when the participants were 15, 18 and 25 years old. COMT Val158Met had an effect on Neuroticism in females by age 25 (p = 0.001, Bonferroni-corrected for five traits), whereas female Val homozygotes scored the highest. In addition, the Conscientiousness scores of subjects with Val/Val genotype were decreasing in time, being the lowest by the age 25 (p = 0.006, Bonferroni-corrected for five traits). By the age 25, males with the Val/Met genotype had mainly secondary or vocational education, whereas female heterozygotes mostly had obtained or were obtaining university education. COMT Val158Met was not associated with anxiety or mood disorders in either gender. These results suggest that genes affecting dopamine system are involved in the development of personality traits and contribute to educational attainment.
In cognitive models of adult psychosis, schematic beliefs about the self and others are important vulnerability and maintaining factors, and are therefore targets for psychological interventions. Schematic beliefs have not previously been investigated in children with distressing unusual, or psychotic-like, experiences (UEDs). The aim of this study was firstly to investigate whether a measure of schematic beliefs, originally designed for adults with psychosis, was suitable for children; and secondly, to examine the association of childhood schematic beliefs with internalising and externalising problems and with UEDs.
Sixty-seven children aged 8–14 years, with emotional and behavioural difficulties, completed measures of UEDs, internalising (depression and anxiety), and externalising (conduct and hyperactivity-inattention) problems, together with the Brief Core Schema Scales (BCSS).
The BCSS was readily completed by participants, and scale psychometric properties were good. Children tended to view themselves and others positively. Internalising and externalising problems and UEDs were all associated with negative schematic beliefs; effect sizes were small to medium.
Schematic beliefs in young people can be measured using the BCSS, and negative schematic beliefs are associated with childhood psychopathology and with UEDs. Schematic beliefs may therefore form a useful target in psychological interventions for young people with UEDs.
Early childhood factors can have persisting effects on development and cognition in children. We propose to explore the trends of Fe deficiency and Pb toxicity in early childhood and their association with child development at 2 years of age and cognition at 5 years.
Longitudinal birth cohort study.
Urban slum, Vellore, India.
Children enrolled at birth were followed up regularly in the first 2 years with developmental and cognitive assessments at 2 and 5 years of age, respectively.
The birth cohort enrolled 251 children with 228 children followed up at 2 years and 212 at 5 years of age. Fe deficiency (ID) was highest at 15 months of age and improved subsequently at 24 months. Blood Pb levels (BLL) remained high at all age groups with an increasing trend with age; 97 % at 36 months having high BLL. Persistent high mean BLL at 15 and 24 months had negative association with both cognition and expressive language raw scores of 24 months, while high mean BLL at 15, 24 and 36 months had no significant association with any of the domains of cognition at 5 years of age. Early childhood cumulative body Fe status at 7, 15 and 24 months did not show any association with child development at 2 years, but was associated with verbal, performance and processing speed components of cognition at 5 years.
Optimising body Fe status and limiting Pb exposure in early childhood can augment child development and school entry cognition.
Despite progress in gender equality, women continue to be disadvantaged compared with men. Worldwide, women are more often confronted with poverty, violence, and mental health problems, and they have less access to food and education. All these factors do not only affect women themselves, but also have a negative impact on the child’s early environment and impair its early development, thereby reducing the health and well-being of future generations. Framing gender equality as a women’s issue fails to highlight the importance of gender equality for the health and well-being of the next generation. As a scientific community investigating early human development and health, we have failed to fully recognize and underscore the importance of gender equality in achieving the best possible start for every child. If women and men had equal rights and opportunities, their children would be more likely to reach their full potential which would improve the health and well-being of future generations. Our studies and interventions have not fully taken into account the complexity of gender inequality and women’s disadvantaged positions in society. We need better insight into the complex adaptive interactions between various societal and human factors contributing to gender inequality and find approaches that take this complexity into account. If we want DOHaD science to have societal impact, we should strive beyond gender equality for gender equity and help women achieve equal rights and opportunities. We need to work with public health professionals, human rights activists, and policymakers to gauge the importance of gender equality. After all, gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but also a necessary foundation for healthier future generations.
Research inspired by ecological perspectives has amply documented broad effects of the family's sociodemographic resources on children's outcomes, with parents’ young age, low education, and low income considered risk factors. Typically, sociodemographic characteristics have been studied as influencing child outcomes either directly or indirectly through parenting. We tested a more nuanced longitudinal model in a community sample of 102 infants, mothers, and fathers. We conceptualized family sociodemographic resources, measured as a composite of parents’ ages, education, and income, as moderating developmental cascades from children's hard-to-manage temperament to parental power-assertive control to children's disruptive behavior problems. Children's temperament measures encompassed proneness to anger and inability to delay, observed at 2 and 3 years in standard laboratory episodes. We observed parents’ control at 4.5 and 5.5 years in lengthy naturalistic prohibition paradigms, and obtained parental ratings of children's disruptive behavior at 6.5 and 8 years. As expected, moderated mediation analyses, covarying stability of children's difficulty and parental control, revealed that the cascade from hard-to-manage temperament to child behavior problems, mediated by parental power-assertive control, was present in families with relatively more disadvantaged sociodemographic characteristics, or fewer resources, but absent in families with more advantageous sociodemographic features, or more resources. The findings were parallel for mother– and father–child dyads.
Postpartum depression is common in the perinatal period and poses a risk for the development of the infant and the mother–infant relationship. Infancy is a critical developmental period of life and supportive parenting is crucial for healthy development, however, the effects of interventions aimed at improving parenting among mothers with depression are uncertain.
To assess the effects of parenting interventions on parent–child relationship and child development among mothers with depressive symptoms with 0–12-month-old infants.
We conducted a systematic review with the inclusion criteria: (a) randomised controlled trials of structured psychosocial parenting interventions for women with depressive symptoms and a child aged 0–12 months in Western Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, (b) minimum three sessions with at least half of these delivered postnatally and (c) outcomes relating to the parent–child-relationship and/or child development. Publications were extracted from 10 databases in September 2018 and supplemented with grey search and hand search. We assessed risk of bias, calculated effect sizes and conducted meta-analysis.
Eight papers representing seven trials were included. We conducted meta-analysis on the post-intervention parent–child relationship. The analysis included six studies and showed no significant effect. For individual study outcomes, no significant effects on the majority of both the parent–child relationship and child development outcomes were reported.
No evidence of the effect of parenting interventions for mothers with depressive symptoms was found on the parent–child relationship and child development. Larger studies with follow-up assessments are needed, and future reviews should examine the effects in non-Western countries.
Research in developmental psychology suggests that children are poor tool innovators. However, such research often overlooks the ways in which children's social and physical environments may lead to cross-cultural variation in their opportunities and proclivity to innovate. In this paper, we examine contemporary hunter–gatherer child and adolescent contributions to tool innovation. We posit that the cultural and subsistence context of many hunter–gatherer societies fosters behavioural flexibility, including innovative capabilities. Using the ethnographic and developmental literature, we suggest that socialisation practices emphasised in hunter–gatherer societies, including learning through autonomous exploration, adult and peer teaching, play and innovation seeking may bolster children's ability to innovate. We also discuss whether similar socialisation practices can be interpreted from the archaeological record. We end by pointing to areas of future study for understanding the role of children and adolescents in the development of tool innovations across cultures in the past and present.