• Open Access

Parental depressive and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy and attention problems in children: a cross-cohort consistency study

Authors

  • T. Van Batenburg-Eddes,

    1. The Generation R Study Group, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    2. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center-Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    3. Department of Educational Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Education, LEARN! Institute, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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  • M.J. Brion,

    1. Medical Research Council Centre for Causal Analyses in Translational Epidemiology, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
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  • J. Henrichs,

    1. The Generation R Study Group, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    2. Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    3. International Victimology Institute Tilburg, Tilburg University, Tilburg, the Netherlands
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  • V.W.V. Jaddoe,

    1. The Generation R Study Group, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    2. Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    3. Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus Medical Center-Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
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  • A. Hofman,

    1. Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
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  • F.C. Verhulst,

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center-Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
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  • D.A. Lawlor,

    1. Medical Research Council Centre for Causal Analyses in Translational Epidemiology, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
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  • G. Davey Smith,

    1. Medical Research Council Centre for Causal Analyses in Translational Epidemiology, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
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  • H. Tiemeier

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center-Sophia Children’s Hospital, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    2. Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    3. Department of Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
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    • Conflict of interest statement: No conflict of interest.


Abstract

Background:  Maternal depression and anxiety during pregnancy have been associated with offspring-attention deficit problems.

Aim:  We explored possible intrauterine effects by comparing maternal and paternal symptoms during pregnancy, by investigating cross-cohort consistency, and by investigating whether parental symptoms in early childhood may explain any observed intrauterine effect.

Methods:  This study was conducted in two cohorts (Generation R, n = 2,280 and ALSPAC, n = 3,442). Pregnant women and their partners completed questionnaires to assess symptoms of depression and anxiety. Child attention problems were measured in Generation R at age 3 with the Child Behavior Checklist, and in ALSPAC at age 4 with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

Results:  In both cohorts, antenatal maternal symptoms of depression (Generation R: OR 1.23, 95% CI 1.05–1.43; ALSPAC: OR 1.33, 95% CI 1.19–1.48) and anxiety (Generation R: OR 1.24, 95% CI 1.06–1.46; ALSPAC: OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.19–1.47) were associated with a higher risk of child attention problems. In ALSPAC, paternal depression was also associated with a higher risk of child attention problems (OR 1.11, 95% CI 1.00–1.24). After adjusting for maternal symptoms after giving birth, antenatal maternal depression and anxiety were no longer associated with child attention problems in Generation R. Moreover, there was little statistical evidence that antenatal maternal and paternal depression and anxiety had a substantially different effect on attention problems of the child.

Conclusions:  The apparent intrauterine effect of maternal depression and anxiety on offspring-behavioural problems may be partly explained by residual confounding. There was little evidence of a difference between the strength of associations of maternal and paternal symptoms during pregnancy with offspring-attention problems. That maternal symptoms after childbirth were also associated with offspring-behavioural problems may indicate a contribution of genetic influences to the association.

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