Transgenerational effects of maternal care interact with fetal growth and influence attention skills at 18months of age Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Evidence suggests that there is an association between being born small for gestational age (SGA) and an increased risk of internalizing and externalizing problems, such as ADHD. Additionally, individuals who report having received a lower quality of maternal care show an increased prevalence of depression and anxiety, and they are generally worse caregivers of their offspring. Therefore, an interaction between the birth weight status and the quality of maternal care perceived by the mother could affect behavioral outcomes of the children. AIMS: Evaluate the influence of being born SGA and parental bonding, as perceived by the mother during her infancy, on the children's behavior at 18 months of age. STUDY DESIGN: Nested cross-sectional study within a Canadian prenatal cohort (MAVAN, Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability and Neurodevelopment) recruited from 2003 to 2010. SUBJECTS: Data from 305 children who were evaluated at 18 months of age. OUTCOME MEASURES: Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire--ECBQ and Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment--ITSEA) were included. RESULTS: Children born SGA whose mothers reported low maternal care during her infancy (using the Parental Bonding Instrument--PBI) showed lower scores in the attentional set shifting trait (ECBQ, p=0.002) and attention construct (ITSEA, p=0.05) at 18 months of age. We also found that SGA increases decreases cuddliness (p=0.011) and poor perceived maternal care decreases low intensity pleasure (p=0.016) on the ECBQ. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest a complex transgenerational transmission whereby mother's own care interacts with the fetal growth of her offspring to predict its attentional skills at 18 months of age.


  • Neuwald, Marla F
  • Agranonik, Marilyn
  • Portella, André K
  • Fleming, Alison
  • Wazana, Ashley
  • Steiner, Meir
  • Levitan, Robert D
  • Meaney, Michael J
  • Silveira, Patrícia P

publication date

  • May 2014

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