Prenatal Maternal Stress, Child Cortical Thickness, and Adolescent Depressive Symptoms

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Prenatal maternal stress, Depressive symptoms, Youth, Pregnancy, Cortical thickness


Prenatal maternal stress predicts subsequent elevations in youth depressive symptoms, but the neural processes associated with these links are unclear. This study evaluated whether prenatal maternal stress is associated with child brain development, and adolescent depressive symptoms using a prospective design with 74 mother child pairs (40 boys). Maternal stress was assessed during pregnancy, child cortical thickness at age 7, and depressive symptoms at age 12. Prenatal maternal stress was associated with less cortical thickness primarily in frontal and temporal regions and with elevated depressive symptoms; child cortical thickness additionally correlated with adolescent depressive symptoms. The observed associations are consistent with the possibility that cortical thickness in superior frontal regions links associations between prenatal maternal stress and adolescent depressive symptoms.

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