Photo:  Dr. Barbara L. Thompson, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at the University of Michigan

Effects of Maternal Stress Detected in 2-Month-Olds

Posted on May 06, 2019 by Kim Doleatto, Herald-Tribune Media Group

Kids say the darnedest things, even before they can speak.

In a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, for the first time, the brains of 2-month-olds told the effects of their mothers’ stress by way of electroencephalography readings.

Researchers were able to see different patterns in brain activity for those with mothers who were more stressed versus those of mothers who were not.

Even more telling, brains with increased maternal stress showed signs of delayed development compared to infants of mothers who reported low stress.

It may be no surprise.

We know by now that a mother’s wellbeing has direct effects on her children, but for the first time, the use of the EEG meter proved an apt tool in uncovering these effects very early in life.

“Is it meaningful long term is something we’re following up on. Previously we’ve only seen this among infants 6 months and older, and it’s remarkable that this early in life there are differences in neural activity under perceived stress,” said Dr. Barbara L. Thompson, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at the University of Michigan and one of the study’s authors.

That makes it even more important to have early intervention that may buffer the effects of maternal stress, often a pathway to some early Adverse Childhood Experiences or “ACEs”.


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