A recent study has revealed a possible connection between maternal health factors during pregnancy and dysregulation in children.
Dysregulation here refers to differences in children’s attention, anxiety, depression, and aggression levels compared to typical expectations for their age.
Researchers from ECHO (Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes) were curious about how certain factors during pregnancy, specifically those related to inflammation, might affect children’s emotional and behavioral regulation.
Inflammation is a normal reaction of the body to injuries or infections, but its impact during pregnancy was the focus of this study.
The study found that a higher percentage of children with dysregulation (35%) were born to mothers who had infections during pregnancy, compared to 28% of children without dysregulation.
Other maternal factors like being overweight before pregnancy, having less education, and smoking during pregnancy were also linked to a higher chance of dysregulation in children.
Additionally, children and adolescents with a parent or sibling who has a mental health disorder were more prone to experiencing dysregulation.
Dr. Jean Frazier from the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, a leader in this study, emphasized that addressing these factors and treating associated conditions could improve outcomes for affected children.
To measure dysregulation, researchers used the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), focusing on aggressive behavior, anxiety/depression, and attention problems.
About 13.4% of the children and adolescents in the study, which included 4,595 participants aged 6-18 years from 18 ECHO research sites across the U.S., met the criteria for the CBCL Dysregulation Profile.
This collaborative research, also led by Dr. Mike O’Shea from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
It sheds new light on the potential impact of maternal health and environmental factors during pregnancy on the emotional and behavioral development of children.
This understanding could pave the way for more targeted interventions and support for families to help manage and mitigate these challenges in children’s lives.
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The research findings are in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
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