Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 150–162 | Cite as

Infant Temperament: Repercussions of Superstorm Sandy-Related Maternal Stress

  • Jessica ButhmannEmail author
  • Jacob Ham
  • Katherine Davey
  • Jackie Finik
  • Kathryn Dana
  • Patricia Pehme
  • Wei Zhang
  • Vivette Glover
  • Yoko NomuraEmail author
Original Article


This study recruited a prospective cohort of 380 pregnant women before, during, or after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 to examine the association between disaster-related pre- and post-natal maternal stress and offspring temperament at 6 months-old. Mothers prospectively reported stressful experiences during the storm and rated their child’s temperament 6 months postpartum. Results indicated that length of time without phone or electricity and financial loss was associated with offspring negative affect, whereas financial loss and threat of death or injury was associated with emotion dysregulation. Furthermore, offspring born before the storm had greater negative affect and lower emotion regulation than those born after the storm. Given the probable increase in the occurrence of natural disasters due to climate change in recent years (McCarthy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate change 2001: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability: contribution of Working Group II to the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001), our results highlight the necessity of education and planning to help ameliorate any potential consequences on the developing infant.


Prenatal maternal stress Early life stress Temperament Natural disaster Infant development 



This study was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (US) (Grant No. R01 MH102729).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

We have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Ethical Approval

All research had approval from the appropriate Institutional Review Board and is in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants.


  1. 1.
    Barker DJP (1998) In utero programming of chronic disease. Clin Sci 95:115. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Drake AJ, Tang JI, Nyirenda MJ (2007) Mechanisms underlying the role of glucocorticoids in the early life programming of adult disease. Clin Sci 113:219–232. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    DiPietro JA, Hodgson DM, Costigan KA et al (1996) Fetal neurobehavioral development. Child Dev 67:2553–2567. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Wadhwa PD, Sandman CA, Garite TJ (2001) The neurobiology of stress in human pregnancy: implications for prematurity and development of the fetal central nervous system. Prog Brain Res 133:131–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Glover V (2011) Annual research review: prenatal stress and the origins of psychopathology: an evolutionary perspective. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 52:356–367. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Van den Bergh BRH, Mulder EJH, Mennes M, Glover V (2005) Antenatal maternal anxiety and stress and the neurobehavioural development of the fetus and child: links and possible mechanisms. A review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 29:237–258. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Chrousos GP (1992) The concepts of stress and stress system disorders. Overview of physical and behavioral homeostasis. JAMA 267:1244–1252. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Sandman CA, Wadhwa PD, Chicz-DeMet A et al (1999) Maternal corticotropin-releasing hormone and habituation in the human fetus. Dev Psychobiol 34:163–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Phillips DIW, Jones A (2006) Fetal programming of autonomic and HPA function: do people who were small babies have enhanced stress responses? J Physiol 572:45–50. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Sánchez MM, Ladd CO, Plotsky PM (2001) Early adverse experience as a developmental risk factor for later psychopathology: evidence from rodent and primate models. Dev Psychopathol 13:419–449. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    McEwen BS, Seeman T (1999) Protective and damaging effects of mediators of stress. Elaborating and testing the concepts of allostasis and allostatic load. Ann NY Acad Sci 896:30–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Jaffee SR, Moffitt TE, Caspi A et al (2002) Differences in early childhood risk factors for Juvenile-onset and adult-onset depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry 59:215. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Van den Hove DLA, Leibold NK, Strackx E et al (2014) Prenatal stress and subsequent exposure to chronic mild stress in rats; interdependent effects on emotional behavior and the serotonergic system. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 24:595–607. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ehrlich DE, Rainnie DG (2015) Prenatal stress alters the development of socio-emotional behavior and amygdala neuron excitability in rats. Neuropsychopharmacology 40:2135–2145. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Howell BR, Grand AP, McCormack KM et al (2014) Early adverse experience increases emotional reactivity in juvenile rhesus macaques: relation to amygdala volume. Dev Psychobiol 56:1735–1746. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Keen-Rhinehart E, Michopoulos V, Toufexis DJ et al (2009) Continuous expression of corticotropin-releasing factor in the central nucleus of the amygdala emulates the dysregulation of the stress and reproductive axes. Mol Psychiatry 14:37–50. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Sanchez MM, Mccormack K, Grand AP et al (2010) Effects of sex and early maternal abuse on adrenocorticotropin hormone and cortisol responses to the corticotropin-releasing hormone challenge during the first 3 years of life in group-living rhesus monkeys. Dev Psychopathol 22:45–53. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Shachar-Dadon A, Schulkin J, Leshem M (2009) Adversity before conception will affect adult progeny in rats. Dev Psychol 45:9–16. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Langley-Evans SC (2007) Metabolic programming in pregnancy: studies in animal models. Genes Nutr 2:33–38. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Class QA, Abel KM, Khashan AS et al (2014) Offspring psychopathology following preconception, prenatal and postnatal maternal bereavement stress. Psychol Med 44:71–84. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Austin M-P, Leader LR, Reilly N (2005) Prenatal stress, the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, and fetal and infant neurobehaviour. Early Hum Dev 81:917–926. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Zhu P, Sun M-S, Hao J-H et al (2014) Does prenatal maternal stress impair cognitive development and alter temperament characteristics in toddlers with healthy birth outcomes? Dev Med Child Neurol 56:283–289. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Huizink AC, de Medina PGR, Mulder EJH et al (2002) Psychological measures of prenatal stress as predictors of infant temperament. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 41:1078–1085CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    McGrath JM, Records K, Rice M (2008) Maternal depression and infant temperament characteristics. Infant Behav Dev 31:71–80. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Baibazarova E, van de Beek C, Cohen-Kettenis PT et al (2013) Influence of prenatal maternal stress, maternal plasma cortisol and cortisol in the amniotic fluid on birth outcomes and child temperament at 3 months. Psychoneuroendocrinology 38:907–915. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Davis EP, Glynn LM, Schetter CD et al (2007) Prenatal exposure to maternal depression and cortisol influences infant temperament. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 46:737–746. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    O’Connor TG, Heron J, Golding J et al (2002) Maternal antenatal anxiety and children’s behavioural/emotional problems at 4 years. Report from the Avon longitudinal study of parents and children. Br J Psychiatry 180:502–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Pagliaccio D, Luby JL, Bogdan R et al (2014) Stress-system genes and life stress predict cortisol levels and amygdala and hippocampal volumes in children. Neuropsychopharmacology 39:1245–1253. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Tottenham N, Hare TA, Quinn BT et al (2010) Prolonged institutional rearing is associated with atypically large amygdala volume and difficulties in emotion regulation: previous institutionalization. Dev Sci 13:46–61. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Hanson JL, Knodt AR, Brigidi BD, Hariri AR (2015) Lower structural integrity of the uncinate fasciculus is associated with a history of child maltreatment and future psychological vulnerability to stress. Dev Psychopathol 27:1611–1619. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    King S, Dancause K, Turcotte-Tremblay A-M et al (2012) Using natural disasters to study the effects of prenatal maternal stress on child health and development: natural disasters and prenatal maternal stress. Birth Defects Res C 96:273–288. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Yong Ping E, Laplante DP, Elgbeili G et al (2015) Prenatal maternal stress predicts stress reactivity at 2½ years of age: the Iowa flood study. Psychoneuroendocrinology 56:62–78. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Simcock G, Kildea S, Elgbeili G et al (2017) Prenatal maternal stress shapes children’s theory of mind: the QF2011 queensland flood study. J Dev Orig Health Dis 8:483–492. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Laplante DP, Brunet A, King S (2016) The effects of maternal stress and illness during pregnancy on infant temperament: project ice storm. Pediatr Res 79:107–113. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Tees MT, Harville EW, Xiong X et al (2010) Hurricane katrina-related maternal stress, maternal mental health, and early infant temperament. Matern Child Health J 14:511–518. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013) Deaths associated with Hurricane Sandy-October-November 2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 6:393–397Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    CNN Library Hurricane Sandy Fast Facts. In: CNN. Accessed 13 Mar 2018
  38. 38.
    Finik J, Nomura Y (2017) Cohort profile: stress in pregnancy (SIP) study. Int J Epidemiol 46:1388–1388. Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Gartstein MA, Rothbart MK (2003) Studying infant temperament via the revised infant behavior questionnaire. Infant Behav Dev 1:64–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Putnam SP, Helbig AL, Gartstein MA et al (2014) Development and assessment of short and very short forms of the infant behavior questionnaire–revised. J Pers Assess 96:445–458. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    King S, Laplante DP (2005) The effects of prenatal maternal stress on children’s cognitive development: project Ice Storm. Stress 8:35–45. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Bromet E, Dew M (1995) Review of psychiatric epidemiologic research on disasters. Epidemiol Rev 17:113–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Weiss D, Marmar C (1997) The impact of event scale-revised. In: Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD. Guilford Press, New York, pp 399–411Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Murray L, Carothers AD (1990) The validation of the Edinburgh post-natal depression scale on a community sample. Br J Psychiatry 157:288–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Spielberger CD (1983) Manual for the state-trait anxiety inventory STAI. Mind Garden, Palo AltoGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Dohrenwend BS, Askenasy AR, Krasnoff L, Dohrenwend BP (1978) Exemplification of a method for scaling life events: the PERI life events scale. J Health Soc Behav 19:205–229. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Dohrenwend BP (2006) Inventorying stressful life events as risk factors for psychopathology: toward resolution of the problem of intracategory variability. Psychol Bull 132:477–495. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Benjamini Y, Yekutieli D (2001) The control of the false discovery rate in multiple testing under dependency. Ann Stat 29:1165–1188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Benjamini Y, Hochberg Y (1995) Controlling the false discovery rate: a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. J R Stat Soc B 57:289–300Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bates JE, Freeland CAB, Lounsbury ML (1979) Measurement of infant difficultness. Child Dev 50:794–803. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Chess S, Thomas A (1977) Temperament and the parent-child interaction. Pediatr Ann 6:26–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Lahey BB, Van Hulle CA, Keenan K et al (2008) Temperament and parenting during the first year of life predict future child conduct problems. J Abnorm Child Psychol 36:1139–1158. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Rettew DC, McKee L (2005) Temperament and its role in developmental psychopathology. Harv Rev Psychiatry 13:14–27. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Collins FS, Tabak LA (2014) NIH plans to enhance reproducibility. Nature 505:612–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Khan A (2017) Fires, droughts and hurricanes: What’s the link between climate change and natural disasters? Los Angel TimesGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Grinsted A, Moore JC, Jevrejeva S (2013) Projected Atlantic hurricane surge threat from rising temperatures. Proc Natl Acad Sci 110:5369–5373. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    McCarthy JJ, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2001) Climate change 2001: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability: contribution of Working Group II to the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PsychologyQueens College, CUNYFlushingUSA
  2. 2.PsychologyThe Graduate Center, CUNYNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.PsychiatryIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Center for Child Trauma and ResilienceMount Sinai Beth IsraelNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.ClassicsBryn Mawr CollegeBryn MawrUSA
  6. 6.Hunter CollegeCUNY, School of Public HealthNew YorkUSA
  7. 7.Imperial College of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations