Maternal Stress Plays Critical Role in Whether Child’s Conduct Problems Continue, According to UA Researcher
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Many children’s behavior problems fade prior to adolescence, while others do not. What differentiates these two groups? Oftentimes, it’s the moms’ prenatal anxiety, according to an article co-authored by a University of Alabama researcher and publishing in the August issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Partner cruelty to the mother, harsh parenting and high levels of under-controlled temperaments in the children’s first years of life were also identified by the researchers as increasing the risk of conduct problems continuing into adolescence.
“… maternal anxiety, both prenatal and early post-partum, is critical in differentiating youths with persistent conduct problems from youths with childhood-limited conduct problems,” wrote Dr. Edward D. “Ted” Barker, an assistant professor and researcher in UA’s Center for the Prevention of Youth Behavior Problems, in the article he co-authored with Dr. Barbara Maughan of the King’s College of London.
Less than 50 percent of young children exhibiting high levels of conduct problems, including fighting, stealing and lying, will continue displaying these problems in adolescence. The research studied which risk factors distinguished the two groups.
“The results support intervention efforts that ‘start at the beginning’ and offer high-risk mothers health and psychological support beginning with their first obstetric screening,” the researchers wrote.
The research relied on data collected on more than 7,000 children ranging from 18 weeks in pregnancy to age 13.
UA’s Center for the Prevention of Youth Behavior Problems is an interdisciplinary research center housed in the psychology department, which is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences. The Center brings together researchers in efforts to better understand youth problems and then develop solutions and advocate for better treatment policy.
The College of Arts and Sciences is the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.
The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.