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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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120. The associations between prenatal maternal stress and the manifestation of behavioral problems are moderated by the inconsistency of the discipline in 7-year-old boys: Iowa Flood Study

Several studies show that maternal prenatal stress (PNMS) predicts behavioral problems in children. However, hope remains for some of them who demonstrate an ability to overcome stress or adversity. This concept is called resilience. By definition, resilience is positive coping, or the ability to maintain or regain mental health, despite the experience of adversity. Good parenting (a structured setting with predictable and consistent rules) is an important factor that influences children's resilience to life's stressors. However, we don’t know whether parental supervision can also contribute to resilience in children with PNMS. Problem Statement: Although the harmful effects of PNMS on offspring behaviors are well documented in animals and humans, it remains unclear how to increase resilience among human children who have experienced similar stress. Rearing conditions and environmental enrichment in pups appear to reverse the effects of PNMS, but it is unclear whether parental control in human children can protect them from the effects of PNMS. The purpose of this study is to increase our understanding of the role of parenting in the development of resilience in children with different levels of PNMS. The goal will be achieved through an international collaboration initiated by Dr. Suzanne King following the 2008 floods in the state of Iowa. Our central hypothesis is that better parenting (with a discipline that is consistent) mitigates the effects of different types of PNMS (objective and subjective) on the resilience of children. When PNMS is combined with behavioral problems at age seven, parental guidance will moderate the intensity of symptoms. The Iowa Flood Study is a prospective longitudinal study that aims to evaluate the effects of PNMS. Following the disaster, 217 mother-child pairs with mothers who were pregnant during the floods were evaluated. A sample of 118 mother-child dyads was selected to complete the protocol proposed by this study. The evaluation of objective PNMS (e.g., amount of material loss caused by the disaster) and subjective PNMS (e.g., post-traumatic symptoms) were completed at recruitment shortly after the floods. Consistency of discipline (Alabama Parenting Questionnaire) and child behavior problems (Child Behavior Checklist) were measured when the child was seven years old. Analyzes: The hierarchical regression and PROCESS macro were used in SPSS to measure the moderating effect of parental guidance. The analyzes were done separately for boys and girls because we thought the results might differ by gender. The results show that the more inconsistent the discipline is, higher objective PNMS predicts symptoms of conduct problems in boys. The more consistent the discipline is, the more subjective PNMS predicts fewer symptoms of conduct problems in boys. Similar associations have been found with symptoms of opposition / provocation problems and symptoms of attention deficit disorder. It can be concluded that in situations of maternal distress during pregnancy, consistent discipline can reduce the effects of this stress on the behavior of children, especially boys.

Benjhyna Daniel
University of Montreal

David P. Laplante
The Douglas Research Center

Guillaume Elgbeili
The Douglas Research Center

Michael O'Hara
University of Iowa

Suzanne King
The Douglas Research Center


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