Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 225–233 | Cite as

The impact of maternal flood-related stress and social support on offspring weight in early childhood

  • Emily B. Kroska
  • Michael W. O’Hara
  • Guillaume Elgbeili
  • Kimberly J. Hart
  • David P. Laplante
  • Kelsey N. Dancause
  • Suzanne King
Original Article


The current study examined the moderating role of social support in the association between prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) and childhood body mass index (BMI) in the context of the Iowa floods of 2008. In addition, the mediating role of offspring birthweight was examined in the association between PNMS and childhood BMI. We recruited women from eastern Iowa who were pregnant in 2008 when disastrous floods occurred. Self-report measures of PNMS and cognitive appraisal of the flood’s consequences were obtained shortly after the disaster. Social support was assessed during pregnancy. Offspring anthropometric measures were collected at birth and 30 months. Moderated mediation results indicated that greater PNMS predicted greater BMI at age 30 months through effects on higher birthweight as a mediator, but only for participants with low social support. High social support (satisfaction or number) buffered the effect of PNMS or a negative appraisal of the flood on birthweight. The combination of high PNMS or a negative appraisal of the flood’s consequences and low social support resulted in higher offspring birthweight, which predicted greater BMI at 30 months. Providing strong social support to pregnant women following a stressor might buffer the effects of PNMS on offspring birthweight and later obesity.


Prenatal maternal stress Cognitive appraisal Social support Birthweight Natural disaster Trauma Childhood weight 



Body mass index


Prenatal maternal stress



This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH086150) to Michael W. O’Hara and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MOP-93660) to Suzanne King.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.Douglas Institute Research CentreMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  4. 4.Department of Physical Activity SciencesUniversity of Quebec at MontrealMontrealCanada
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatryMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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