European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 41–51 | Cite as

The effects of prenatal stress on temperament and problem behavior of 27-month-old toddlers

  • Barbara M. Gutteling
  • Carolina de Weerth
  • Sophie H. N. Willemsen-Swinkels
  • Anja C. Huizink
  • Eduard J. H. Mulder
  • Gerard H. A. Visser
  • Jan K. Buitelaar



To examine, in a prospective study, the influence of prenatal stress on infant temperament and problem behavior.


Self-report data on stress and anxiety, and levels of cortisol in saliva were collected from nulli-parous women during pregnancy. Temperament of the child was measured at 27 months by parent report on the Infant Characteristics Questionnaire. Behavior of the child was assessed by direct observation during the administration of the Bayley Scales of Development 2–30, and by parent report on the Child Behavior Checklist 2–3.


Complete data were available for 103 healthy toddlers. Logistic regression analyses were performed and results were adjusted for possible prenatal, perinatal and postnatal confounders. Perceived stress during pregnancy was a predictor of lower levels of restless/disruptive temperament (OR=0.77), more total behavioral problems (OR=1.17), and more externalizing behavioral problems (OR=1.12) in 2-year-olds. Fear of bearing a handicapped child was a predictor of higher levels of restless/disruptive temperament (OR=1.39) and more attention regulation problems in toddlers (OR=1.46).


Increased levels of maternal prenatal stress appear to be associated with temperamental and behavioral problems in toddlers.

Key words

prenatal stress toddler temperament behavior 


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara M. Gutteling
    • 1
    • 4
  • Carolina de Weerth
    • 4
  • Sophie H. N. Willemsen-Swinkels
    • 4
  • Anja C. Huizink
    • 2
  • Eduard J. H. Mulder
    • 3
  • Gerard H. A. Visser
    • 3
  • Jan K. Buitelaar
    • 4
  1. 1.Dept. of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUtrecht University Medical Center and the Rudolf Magnus Institute of NeuroscienceUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Dept. of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryErasmus Medical CenterRotterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Dept. of Perinatology and GynaecologyUtrecht University Medical CenterUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Dept. of Psychiatry (333)University Medical Center St. RadboudHB NijmegenThe Netherlands

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