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Prenatal Depressive Symptoms and Offspring Internalizing Symptoms at 22 Years

Helsel, Alexis A (2013) Prenatal Depressive Symptoms and Offspring Internalizing Symptoms at 22 Years. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Prenatal depression has been linked to a number of adverse outcomes for the developing fetus. A few studies have explored the effects on offspring psychopathology in childhood and adolescence, but it is unclear whether these effects extend into adulthood. This study examined the effect of prenatal depressive symptoms on offspring internalizing scores at 22 years within the Maternal Health Practices and Child Development Study birth cohort. Mediation analysis was performed to examine potential mediators of this relationship. Latent growth curve modeling was utilized to perform a trajectory analysis to investigate whether changes in maternal depressive symptoms over time had an effect on offspring internalizing symptoms.
Prenatal depressive symptoms were common in our sample and were associated with higher internalizing symptoms in exposed offspring at 22 years. These associations remained significant while controlling for prenatal and current covariates of internalizing symptoms. This effect was not found to be mediated by birth weight. Latent growth curve modeling revealed that, on average, maternal depressive symptoms decreased slightly from the first trimester through 16 years. Within the trajectory analysis, higher first trimester maternal depressive symptoms were marginally associated with offspring internalizing scores at 22 years, however this effect was found to be mediated by offspring reports of childhood maltreatment. The change in maternal depressive symptoms during the course of the study did not affect offspring internalizing scores.
While the association between prenatal depressive symptoms and offspring internalizing symptoms was shown to be mediated by childhood maltreatment, identifying women with elevated depressive symptoms during pregnancy nevertheless identifies a subgroup of children at increased risk of experiencing child abuse and neglect. The public health significance of our findings is that pregnancy may represent an ideal time for clinicians to screen and identify women whose offspring may benefit from targeted interventions to decrease childhood maltreatment.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Helsel, Alexis
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDay, Nancy Lnday@pitt.eduNDAY
Committee MemberBrent, David Abrentda@upmc.eduBRENT
Committee MemberKim, Kevin Hkhkim@pitt.eduKHKIM
Committee MemberRichardson, Gale Agar@pitt.eduGAR
Date: 27 September 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 May 2013
Approval Date: 27 September 2013
Submission Date: 15 July 2013
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 120
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public Health > Epidemiology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: prenatal depression maternal depression internalizing symptoms depressive symptoms pregnancy
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2013 15:25
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2018 05:15


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