Impact of Maternal Perinatal Anxiety on Social-Emotional Development of 2-Year-Olds, A Prospective Study of Norwegian Mothers and Their Offspring

The Impact of Perinatal Anxiety on Child Development
  • Carolin PolteEmail author
  • Carolin Junge
  • Tilmann von Soest
  • Andreas Seidler
  • Malin Eberhard-Gran
  • Susan Garthus-Niegel


Introduction Anxiety in women is highly prevalent during pregnancy and in the postnatal period. Anxiety disorders in mothers have been linked to adverse outcomes in their children’s development. However, large-scale prospective studies on this issue, covering both the prenatal and postnatal period with follow-up periods beyond the first year of life are scarce. Method In this prospective cohort study, data gathered from 1336 Norwegian women and their children were used. Maternal anxiety symptoms were measured at gestation week 17–19 and 32, as well as 8 weeks postpartum using the Symptom Check List. Child development problems were assessed at 2 years postpartum using the Ages & Stages Questionnaire: Social-Emotional. Logistic regressions were conducted to examine the association between maternal prenatal, postnatal, and perinatal anxiety and the risk of social-emotional development problems in 2-year-old children. Results Of all women, 8.2% experienced prenatal anxiety, 4.0% had postnatal anxiety, and 4.4% reported perinatal anxiety (i.e., anxiety in both the prenatal and postnatal period). 5.6% of the 2-year-olds showed problems in their social-emotional behavior. Child development problems were associated with maternal prenatal anxiety (Odds Ratio [OR] = 2.48, 95% CI 1.55–4.92), postnatal anxiety (OR 3.32, 95% CI 1.43–7.74), and anxiety both in the prenatal and postnatal period (OR 3.98, 95% CI 1.85–8.56). Adjusted for confounders, maternal anxiety continued to be a significant predictor of adverse child social-emotional development (postnatal anxiety: OR 2.46, 95% CI 1.01–5.97; perinatal anxiety: OR 2.40, 95% CI 1.03–5.59). Discussion Maternal postnatal anxiety and anxiety both during and after pregnancy are unique substantial predictors for problems in a 2-year-old’s social-emotional development, even when controlled for confounders.


Maternal perinatal anxiety Symptom Check List Ages & Stages Questionnaire Social-emotional development Child development 



The study was supported by Grants from the Norwegian Research Council, Project No. 191098.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carolin Polte
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carolin Junge
    • 1
  • Tilmann von Soest
    • 2
  • Andreas Seidler
    • 1
  • Malin Eberhard-Gran
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 7
  • Susan Garthus-Niegel
    • 3
    • 6
  1. 1.Institute and Policlinic of Occupational and Social Medicine, Faculty of MedicineTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Child HealthNorwegian Institute of Public HealthOsloNorway
  4. 4.Health Services Research CentreAkershus University HospitalLørenskogNorway
  5. 5.Institute of Clinical MedicineUniversity of OsloLørenskogNorway
  6. 6.Department of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Medicine, Faculty of MedicineTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany
  7. 7.Department for Infant Mental Health, Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental HealthEastern and Southern NorwayOsloNorway

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