Prenatal exposure to disaster-related traumatic stress and developmental trajectories of temperament in early childhood: Superstorm Sandy pregnancy study

Wei Zhang, Khushmand Rajendran, Jacob Ham, Jackie Finik, Jessica Buthmann, Kei Davey, Patricia M. Pehme, Kathryn Dana, Alexandra Pritchett, Holly Laws, Yoko Nomura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Little is known about the impact of prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) on the developmental trajectory of temperament and few studies have been able to incorporate a natural disaster as a quasi-experimental stressor. The current study investigated PNMS related to Superstorm Sandy ('sandy’), a hurricane that struck the New York metropolitan area in October 2012, in terms of objective exposure during pregnancy, subjective stress reaction as assessed by maternal symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and their impact on the developmental changes in temperament during early childhood. Method: A subsample of 318 mother-child dyads was drawn from the Stress in Pregnancy Study. Temperament was measured at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months of age. Results: Objective exposure was associated with greater High-Intensity Pleasure, Approach, Perceptual Sensitivity and Fearfulness, but lower Cuddliness and Duration of Orientation at 6 months. Objective exposure and its interaction with subjective stress reaction predicted developmental changes in temperament. In particular, objective exposure was linked to greater increases in Activity Level but decreases in High-Intensity Pleasure, Approach, and Fearfulness. The combination of objective exposure and subjective stress reaction was also associated with greater increases in Activity Level. Limitations: Temperament was measured solely via maternal report. Trimester-specific effects of Sandy on temperament were not examined. Conclusion: This is the first study to examine the effects of prenatal maternal exposure to a natural disaster on trajectories of early childhood temperament. Findings suggest that both objective stress exposure and subjective stress reaction in-utero predict developmental trajectories of temperament in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-345
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume234
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Keywords

  • Longitudinal data
  • Natural disaster
  • Objective stress exposure
  • Prenatal maternal stress
  • Subjective stress reaction
  • Temperament

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