Does grief transfer across generations? In-utero deaths and child outcomes
Sandra E. Black, Paul Devereux, Kjell G. Salvanes 20 August 2014
Adverse health or nutrition shocks to pregnant women can have significant and often long-lasting effects on the outcomes of their children, but much less is known about the effects of psychological stresses. This column discusses recent research on the effect of stress induced by the death of a parent while pregnant on the short- and long-run outcomes of children in Norway. Maternal bereavement has small but statistically significant adverse effects on birth outcomes – especially for boys – but there is no evidence of any long-run adverse effects.
What is the effect of stress while pregnant on the health of the baby? This is a question faced by all women – both in developed and developing countries. Indeed, in developed countries, stress may be more prevalent than many physical stressors such as nutritional deficiencies. Despite the pervasiveness of stress in modern society, particularly during pregnancy, we have a very limited understanding of the effect on children’s health when they are born, and whether there are any long-term negative effects in terms of cognitive development and on labour market outcomes.
health, pregnancy, stress, grief, bereavement
Drinking during pregnancy and children’s test scores
Sarah Lewis, Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder, George L Wehby, Luisa Zuccolo 08 March 2014
Excessive drinking during pregnancy is known to harm the foetus, but estimating the effects of moderate prenatal alcohol consumption is difficult, since mothers who choose to drink may differ systematically from those who do not. This column presents recent research showing that a genetic variant in a maternal alcohol-metabolising gene (ADH1B) is negatively related to prenatal alcohol exposure, and unrelated to any of the background characteristics associated with prenatal drinking. Using this genetic variant as an ‘instrumental variable’, the authors find strong negative effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on child educational achievement.
The US Surgeon General first published a report on drinking during pregnancy in 1981, drawing attention to the link between prenatal alcohol consumption and birth defects (Office of the US Surgeon General 1981). The detrimental effects of excessive drinking during pregnancy are now well-known – it potentially leads to a pattern of mental and physical defects known as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The effects of low-to-moderate drinking, however, are less conclusive, and there is no consensus as to what level of exposure is toxic to the foetus.
education, alcohol, pregnancy