Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 June 2017
Prenatal stress and prenatal nutrition each have demonstrable impact on fetal development, with implications for child neurodevelopment and behavior. However, few studies have examined their joint influences despite evidence of potential interactive effects. We examined associations among prenatal stress, prenatal antioxidant intakes, and child temperament in a sociodemographically diverse pregnancy cohort (N=137 mother–child dyads). In mid-pregnancy, mothers completed an assessment of recent negative life events as a measure of prenatal stress and an assessment of prenatal diet. When the children were 30 months of age, mothers completed the Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire-Very Short form, which provides scores on child Negative Affectivity, Effortful Control, and Surgency/Extraversion. Linear regressions tested associations between maternal prenatal negative life events and child temperament, and effect modification by maternal prenatal antioxidant intakes (vitamins A, C, and E, magnesium, zinc, selenium, β-carotene). Analyses revealed that increased maternal prenatal negative life events were associated with higher child Negative Affectivity (β=0.08, P=0.009) but not with child Effortful Control (β=−0.03, P=0.39) or Surgency/Extraversion (β=0.04, P=0.14). Prenatal intakes of zinc and selenium modified this effect: Maternal exposure to prenatal negative life events was associated with higher child Negative Affectivity in the presence of lower intakes of zinc and selenium. Modification effects approached significance for vitamins A and C. The results suggest that the combination of elevated stress exposures and lower antioxidant intakes in pregnancy increases the likelihood of heightened child temperamental negative affectivity. Increased antioxidant intakes during pregnancy may protect against influences of prenatal stress on child temperament.
Present address: Department of Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH, USA.
Present address: Kronsys, Inc., Raleigh, NC, USA.