Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 683–714

Prenatal and Postpartum Maternal Psychological Distress and Infant Development: A Systematic Review

Review Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10578-012-0291-4

Cite this article as:
Kingston, D., Tough, S. & Whitfield, H. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev (2012) 43: 683. doi:10.1007/s10578-012-0291-4


Infant development plays a foundational role in optimal child development and health. Some studies have demonstrated an association between maternal psychological distress and infant outcomes, although the main emphasis has been on postpartum depression and infant-maternal attachment. Prevention and early intervention strategies would benefit from an understanding of the influence of both prenatal and postpartum maternal distress on a broader spectrum of infant developmental outcomes. We conducted a systematic review of studies assessing the effect of prenatal and postpartum maternal psychological distress on five aspects of infant development: global; cognitive; behavioral; socio-emotional; and psychomotor. These findings suggest that prenatal distress can have an adverse effect on cognitive, behavioral, and psychomotor development, and that postpartum distress contributes to cognitive and socio-emotional development.


Infant development Maternal psychological distress Systematic review Maternal psychosocial care 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dawn Kingston
    • 1
  • Suzanne Tough
    • 2
  • Heather Whitfield
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Nursing, Rm 5-258 Edmonton Clinic Health AcademyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Paediatrics and Community Health Sciences, Centre for Child, Family, and Community ResearchUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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