Prenatal Exposure to an Acute Stressor and Children’s Cognitive Outcomes

Abstract

Exposure to environmental stressors is highly prevalent and unequally distributed along socioeconomic lines and may have enduring negative consequences, even when experienced before birth. Yet, estimating the consequences of prenatal stress on children’s outcomes is complicated by the issue of confounding (i.e., unobserved factors correlated with stress exposure and with children’s outcomes). I combine a natural experiment—a strong earthquake in Chile—with a panel survey to capture the effect of prenatal exposure on acute stress and children’s cognitive ability. I find that stress exposure in early pregnancy has no effect on children’s cognition among middle-class families, but it has a strong negative influence among disadvantaged families. I then examine possible pathways accounting for the socioeconomic stratification in the effect of stress, including differential exposure across socioeconomic status, differential sensitivity, and parental responses. Findings suggest that the interaction between prenatal exposures and socioeconomic advantage provides a powerful mechanism for the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    For simplicity, I refer to treatment and control groups based on exposure to the earthquake, although it should be kept in mind that the earthquake is the instrument for prenatal stress.

  2. 2.

    The influence of small increases in cortisol within a normal range late in the pregnancy is subject to debate, with some studies reporting small negative effects and others reporting small positive effects (Davis and Sandman 2010; Huinzik et al. 2003).

  3. 3.

    There is also a significant overall difference in cognitive performance between treatment and control areas, captured by the parameter estimate associated with the treatment area. Interviews with local experts suggested that regional differences in quality of preschool and early education institutions may play a role in this baseline difference.

  4. 4.

    Substantive results remain unaltered if models include a larger set of covariates (Table A2.1 in the online appendix).

  5. 5.

    I also examined birth weight as a potential mediator of the relationship between stress exposure and children’s cognitive outcomes, finding that it plays no mediating role (online appendix, Table A2.2).

References

  1. Aber, J. L., Bennett, N. G., Conley, D. C., & Li, J. (1997). The effects of poverty on child health and development. Annual Review of Public Health, 18, 463–483.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Alderman, H., & Behrman, J. E. (2006). Reducing the incidence of low birth weight in low-income countries has substantial economic benefits. World Bank Research Observer, 21, 25–48.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Almond, D., & Mazumder, B. (2013). Fetal origins and parental responses. Annual Review of Economics, 5, 37–56. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-economics-082912-110145

    Google Scholar 

  4. Aneshensel, C. S. (1992). Social stress: Theory and research. Annual Review of Sociology, 18, 15–38.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Angrist, J. D., Imbens, G. W., & Rubin, D. B. (1996). Identification of causal effects using instrumental variables. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 91, 444–455.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Avishai-Eliner, S., Brunson, K. L., Sandman, C. A., & Baram, T. Z. (2002). Stressed-out, or in (utero)? Trends in Neurosciences, 25, 518–524.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Barker, D. J. P. (1990). The fetal and infant origins of adult disease. BMJ, 301, 1111. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.301.6761.1111

    Google Scholar 

  8. Barker, D. J. P., Godfrey, K. M., Gluckman, P. D., Harding, J. E., Owens, J. A., & Robinson, J. S. (1993). Fetal nutrition and cardiovascular disease in adult life. Lancet, 341, 938–941.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Beijers, R., Buitelaar, J. K., & de Weerth, C. (2014). Mechanisms underlying the effects of prenatal psychosocial stress on child outcomes: Beyond the HPA axis. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 23, 943–956.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bell, M. L., & Ebisu, K. (2012). Environmental inequality in exposures to airborne particulate matter components in the United States. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120, 1699–1704.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Benyshek, D. C. (2013). The “early life” origins of obesity-related health disorders: New discoveries regarding the intergenerational transmission of developmentally programmed traits in the global cardiometabolic health crisis. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 57(Suppl.), 79–93.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bernardi, F. (2014). Compensatory advantage as a mechanism of educational inequality: A regression discontinuity based on month of birth. Sociology of Education, 87, 74–88.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Beydoun, H., & Saftlas, A. F. (2008). Physical and mental health outcomes of prenatal maternal stress in human and animal studies: A review of recent evidence. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 22, 438–466.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bock, J., Wainstock, T., Braun, K., & Segal, M. (2015). Stress in utero: Prenatal programming of brain plasticity and cognition. Biological Psychiatry, 78, 315–326.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Brown, R. (2005). Critical period. In N. J. Salkind (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human development (Vol. 1, pp. 324–326). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Campbell, J. M. (1998). Internal and external validity of seven Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children—Third Edition short forms in a sample of psychiatric inpatients. Psychological Assessment, 10, 431–434.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Charil, A., Laplante, D. P., Vaillancourt, C., & King, S. (2010). Prenatal stress and brain development. Brain Research Reviews, 65, 56–79.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Conley, D. (2004). The pecking order: A bold new look at how family and society determine who we become. New York, NY: Pantheon.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Conley, D., Strully, K. W., & Bennett, N. G. (2003). The starting gate: Birth weight and life chances. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Cunha, F., & Heckman, J. (2007). The technology of skill formation. American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, 97, 31–47.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Cunha, F., Heckman, J. J., Lochner, L., & Masterov, D. (2006). Interpreting the evidence on life cycle skill formation. In E. A. Hanushek & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of education (Vol. 1, pp. 697–812). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Elsevier.

  22. Davis, E., & Sandman, C. (2010). The timing of prenatal exposure to maternal cortisol and psychosocial stress is associated with human infant cognitive development. Child Development, 81, 131–148.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Dimsdale, J. E. (2008). Psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 51, 1237–1246.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Dohrenwend, B. S., & Dohrenwend, B. P. (1970). Class and race as status-related sources of stress. In S. Levine & N. A. Scotch (Eds.), Social stress (pp. 111–139). Piscataway, NJ: Transaction.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Dunkel Schetter, C., & Glynn, L. M. (2011). Stress in pregnancy: Empirical evidence and theoretical issues to guide interdisciplinary research. In R. J. Contrada & A. Baum (Eds.), The handbook of stress science: Biology, psychology, and health (pp. 321–343). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Dunning, T. (2012). Natural experiments in the social sciences: A design-based approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Duyme, M., Dumaret, A.-C., & Tomkiewicz, S. (1999). How can we boost IQs of “dull children”? A late adoption study. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96, 8790–8794.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI). (2005). Intensities and damage distribution in the June 2005 Tarapaca, Chile, earthquake (EERI Special Earthquake Report). Oakland, CA: EERI.

  29. Entringer, S., Buss, C., & Wadhwa, P. D. (2015). Prenatal stress, development, health and disease risk: A psychobiological perspective. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 62, 366–375.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Eskenazi, B., Marks, A. R., Catalano, R., Bruckner, T., & Toniolo, P. G. (2015). Low birthweight in New York City and upstate New York following the events of September 11th. Human Reproduction, 22, 3013–3020.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Evans, G., Li, D., & Whipple, S. S. (2013). Cumulative risk and child development. Psychological Bulletin, 139, 1342–1396.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Eysenck, H. J. (1983). Stress, disease and personality: The “inoculation effect.” In C. L. Cooper (Ed.), Stress research (pp. 121–146). New York, NY: Wiley.

  33. Feder, A., Nestler, E. J., & Charney, D. S. (2009). Psychobiology and molecular genetics of resilience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10, 446–457.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Fernald, L. C. H., Gertler, P. J., & Neufeld, L. M. (2009). 10-year effect of Oportunidades, Mexico’s conditional cash transfer programme, on child growth, cognition, language, and behaviour: A longitudinal follow-up study. Lancet, 374, 1997–2005.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Geronimus, A. T. (1992). The weathering hypothesis and the health of African-American women and infants: Evidence and speculations. Ethnicity & Disease, 2, 207–221.

  36. Grossman, M. (1972). On the concept of health capital and the demand for health. Journal of Political Economy, 80, 223–255.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Gump, B. B., & Matthews, K. A. (1999). Do background stressors influence reactivity to and recovery from acute stressors? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29, 469–494.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Gutteling, B. M., de Weerth, C., Zandbelt, N., Mulder, E. J. H., Visser, G. H. A., & Buitelaar, J. K. (2006). Does maternal prenatal stress adversely affect the child’s learning and memory at age six? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 787–796.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Hackman, D. A., & Farah, M. J. (2009). Socioeconomic status and the developing brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 65–73.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Harrell, E., Langton, L., Berzofsy, M., Couzens, L., & Smiley-McDonald, H. (2014). Household poverty and nonfatal violent victimization, 2008–2012 (Special Report of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, No. NCJ 248384). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

  41. Heckman, J. J. (2006). Skill formation and the economics of investment in disadvantaged children. Science, 312, 1900–1902.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Heckman, J. J., Stixrud, J., & Urzua, S. (2006). The effects of cognitive and noncognitive abilities on labor market outcomes and social behavior. Journal of Labor Economics, 24, 411–482.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Hidalgo, P., & Arias, A. (1990). New Chilean code for earthquake-resistant design of buildings. In Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (Ed.), Proceedings of the 4th U.S. national conference on earthquake engineering (Vol. 2, pp. 927–936). Palm Springs, CA: Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.

  44. Hobel, C. J., Goldstein, A., & Barrett, E. S. (2008). Psychosocial stress and pregnancy outcome. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 51, 333–348.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Hsin, A. (2012). Is biology destiny? Birth weight and differential parental treatment. Demography, 49, 1385–1405.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Huizink, A. C., Robles de Medina, P. G., Mulder, E. J. H., Visser, G. H. A., & Buitelaar, J. K. (2003). Stress during pregnancy is associated with developmental outcome in infancy. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44, 810–818.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Imai, K., Keele, L., Tingley, D., & Yamamoto, T. (2011). Unpacking the black box of causality: Learning about causal mechanisms from experimental and observational studies. American Political Science Review, 105, 765–789.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Karoly, L., Kilburn, R., & Cannon, J. (2005). Early childhood interventions: Proven results, future promise. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Kaufman, A. S., Kaufman, J. C., Balgopal, R., & McLean, J. E. (1996). Comparison of three WISC-III short form: Weighing psychometric, clinical, and practical factors. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 25, 97–105.

    Google Scholar 

  50. King, K. E., Morenoff, J. D., & House, J. S. (2011). Neighborhood context and social disparities in cumulative biological risk factors. Psychosomatic Medicine, 73, 572–579.

    Google Scholar 

  51. King, S., & Laplante, D. P. (2005). The effects of prenatal maternal stress on children’s cognitive development: Project Ice Storm. Stress, 8, 35–45.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Kirshbaum, C., Prussner, J. C., Stone, A. A., Federenko, L., Gaab, J., Lintz, D., . . . Hellhammer, D. H. (1995). Persistent high cortisol responses to repeated psychological stress in a subpopulation of healthy men. Psychosomatic Medicine, 57, 468–474.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Kline, J., Stein, Z., & Susser, M. (1989). Conception to birth: Epidemiology of prenatal development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Knol, M. J., Pestman, W. R., & Grobbee, D. E. (2011). The (mis)use of overlap of confidence intervals to assess effect modification. European Journal of Epidemiology, 26, 253–254.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Knudsen, E. I. (2004). Sensitive periods in the development of the brain and behavior. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16, 1412–1425.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Knudsen, E. I., Heckman, J. J., Cameron, J. L., & Shonkoff, J. P. (2006). Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on building America’s future workforce. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103, 10155–10162.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Kugelmass, H., & Lynch, S. M. (2014). Types of stressors. In W. Cockerham, R. Dingwall, & S. Quah (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell encyclopedia of health, illness, behavior, and society. Chichester, UK: Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Kuzawa, C. W., & Sweet, E. (2009). Epigenetics and the embodiment of race: Developmental origins of US racial disparities in cardiovascular health. American Journal of Human Biology, 21, 2–15.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Laplante, D. P., Brunet, A., Schmitz, N., Ciampi, A., & King, S. (2008). Project Ice Storm: Prenatal maternal stress affects cognitive and linguistic functioning in 5 1/2-year-old children. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47, 1063–1072.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Lareau, A. (2011). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life (2nd ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press.

  61. Lauderdale, D. S. (2006). Birth outcomes for Arabic-named women in California before and after September 11. Demography, 43, 185–201.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Leor, J., Poole, W. K., & Kloner, R. A. (1996). Sudden cardiac death triggered by an earthquake. New England Journal of Medicine, 334, 413–419.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Lobel, M., Hamilton, J. G., & Cannella, D. T. (2008). Psychosocial perspectives on pregnancy: Prenatal maternal stress and coping. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 1600–1623.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Lui, S., Huang, X., Chen, L., Tang, H., Zhang, T., Li, X., . . . Gong, Q. (2009). High-field MRI reveals an acute impact on brain function in survivors of the magnitude 8.0 earthquake in China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 15412–15417.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Macours, K., Schady, N., & Vakis, R. (2012). Cash transfers, behavioral changes, and cognitive development in early childhood: Evidence from a randomized experiment. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 4(2), 247–273.

  66. Margerison-Zilko, C. E., Catalano, R., Hubbard, A., & Ahern, J. (2011). Maternal exposure to unexpected economic contraction and birth weight for gestational age. Epidemiology, 22, 855–858.

    Google Scholar 

  67. McEwen, B. S. (1998). Stress, adaptation, and disease: Allostasis and allostatic load. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 840, 33–44.

    Google Scholar 

  68. McEwen, B. S., & Stellar, E. (1993). Stress and the individual: Mechanisms leading to disease. JAMA Internal Medicine, 153, 2093–2101.

    Google Scholar 

  69. McEwen, C. A., & McEwen, B. S. (2017). Social structure, adversity, toxic stress, and intergenerational poverty: An early childhood model. Annual Review of Sociology, 43, 445–472.

    Google Scholar 

  70. McLeod, J. D., Caputo, J. L., & Erving, C. L. (2014). Social psychology and the stress process. In W. Cockerham, R. Dingwall, & S. Quah (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell encyclopedia of health, illness, behavior, and society (pp. 1–5). Chichester, UK: Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  71. McLeod, J. D., & Kessler, R. (1990). Socioeconomic status differences in vulnerability to undesirable life events. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 31, 162–172.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Monk, C., Spicer, J., & Champagne, F. (2012). Linking prenatal maternal adversity to developmental outcomes in infants: The role of epigenetic pathways. Development and Psychopathology, 24, 1361–1376.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Murnane, R. J., Willett, J. B., & Levy, F. (1995). The growing importance of cognitive skills in wage determination. Review of Economics and Statistics, 77, 251–266.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Nijland, M. J., Ford, S. P., & Nathanielsz, P. W. (2008). Prenatal origins of adult disease. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 20, 132–138.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Non, A. L., Hollister, B. M., Humphreys, K. L., Childebayeva, A., Esteves, K., Zeanah, C. H., . . . Drury, S. S. (2016). DNA methylation at stress-related genes is associated with exposure to early life institutionalization. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 161, 84–93.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Novak, N. L., Geronimus, A. T., & Martinez-Cardoso, A. M. (2017). Change in birth outcomes among infants born to Latina mothers after a major immigration raid. International Journal of Epidemiology, 46, 839–849.

    Google Scholar 

  77. O’Connor, T. G., Heron, J., & Glover, V. (2002). Antenatal anxiety predicts child behavioral/emotional problems independently of postnatal depression. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 41, 1470–1477.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Oficina Nacional de Emergencia del Ministerio del Interior y Seguridad Pública (ONEMI). (2005). Informe Consolidado Terremoto Primera Región de Tarapacá, 13 de Junio 2005 [Earthquake consolidated report, first region of Tarapacá, June 13, 2005]. Santiago, Chile: División de Protección Civil.

  79. Palloni, A. (2006). Reproducing inequality: Luck, wallets, and the enduring effects of childhood health. Demography, 43, 587–615.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Pearlin, L. I. (1989). The sociological study of stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 241–256.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Pearlin, L. I. (1999). The stress process revisited. In C. S. Aneshensel & J. C. Phelan (Eds.), Handbook of the sociology of mental health (pp. 395–415). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  82. Pearlin, L. I., Menaghan, E. G., Lieberman, M. A., & Mullan, J. T. (1981). The stress process. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 22, 337–356.

    Google Scholar 

  83. Pearlin, L. I., Schieman, S., Fazio, E. M., & Meersman, S. C. (2005). Stress, health, and the life course: Some conceptual perspectives. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46, 205–219.

    Google Scholar 

  84. Ramirez, M., & Peek-Asa, C. (2005). Epidemiology of traumatic injuries from earthquakes. Epidemiologic Reviews, 27, 47–55.

    Google Scholar 

  85. Ramirez, V., & Rosas, R. (2007). Standardization of WISC-III in Chile: Test description, factorial structure, and internal consistency of the scales. Psykhe, 16(1), 91–109.

  86. Rice, D., & Barone, S., Jr. (2000). Critical periods of vulnerability for the developing nervous system: Evidence from humans and animal models. Environmental Health Perspectives, 108(Suppl. 3), 511–533.

    Google Scholar 

  87. Rubin, D. B. (1980). Randomization analysis of experimental data: The Fisher randomization test comment. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 75, 591–593.

    Google Scholar 

  88. Rubin, D. B. (1986). Comment: Which ifs have causal answers. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 81, 961–962.

    Google Scholar 

  89. Rubin, D. B. (1990). Formal models of statistical inference for causal effects. Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference, 25, 279–292.

    Google Scholar 

  90. Rutter, M. (1998). Developmental catch-up, and deficit, following adoption after severe global early privation. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39, 465–476.

    Google Scholar 

  91. Sandman, C. A., Davis, E. P., Buss, C., & Glynn, L. M. (2011). Prenatal programming of human neurological function. International Journal of Peptides, 2011(837596). https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/837596

    Google Scholar 

  92. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). Stress and health: Psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 607–628.

    Google Scholar 

  93. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

  94. Shonkoff, J. P. (2010). Building a new biodevelopmental framework to guide the future of early childhood policy. Child Development, 81, 357–367.

    Google Scholar 

  95. Siegel, J. (2000). Emotional injury and the Northridge, California earthquake. Natural Hazards Review, 1(4), 204. https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)1527-6988(2000)1:4(204)

  96. Sjostrom, T., Valentin, L., Thelin, T., & Marsal, K. (1997). Maternal anxiety in late pregnancy and fetal hemodynamics. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 74, 149–155.

    Google Scholar 

  97. Talge, N. M., Neal, C., & Glover, V. (2007). Antenatal maternal stress and long-term effects on child neurodevelopment: How and why? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48, 245–261.

    Google Scholar 

  98. Tarabulsy, G. M., Pearson, J., Vaillancourt-Morel, M.-P., Bussieres, E.-L., Madigan, S., Lemelin, J.-P., . . . Royer, F. (2014). Meta-analytic findings of the relation between maternal prenatal stress and anxiety and child cognitive outcome. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 35, 38–43.

    Google Scholar 

  99. Thayer, Z. M., & Kuzawa, C. W. (2011). Biological memories of past environments: Epigenetic pathways to health disparities. Epigenetics, 6, 798–803.

    Google Scholar 

  100. Thoits, P. A. (1983). Dimensions of life events that influence psychological distress: An evaluation and synthesis of the literature. In H. B. Kaplan (Ed.), Psychosocial stress: Trends in theory and research (pp. 33–103). New York, NY: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  101. Thoits, P. A. (2010). Stress and health: Major findings and policy implications. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51(Suppl. 1), S41–S53.

    Google Scholar 

  102. Tomalski, P., & Johnson, M. H. (2010). The effect of early adversity on the adult and developing brain. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 23, 233–238.

    Google Scholar 

  103. Tong, S., von Schirnding, Y., & Prapamontol, T. (2000). Environmental lead exposure: A public health problem of global dimensions. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 78, 1068–1077.

    Google Scholar 

  104. Torche, F. (2011). The effect of maternal stress on birth outcomes: Exploiting a natural experiment. Demography, 48, 1473–1491.

    Google Scholar 

  105. Torche, F., & Echevarria, G. (2011). The effect of birthweight on childhood cognitive development in a middle-income country. International Journal of Epidemiology, 40, 1008–1018.

    Google Scholar 

  106. Turner, R. J. (2010). Understanding health disparities: The promise of the stress process model. In W. R. Avison, C. S. Aneshensel, S. Schieman, & B. Wheaton (Eds.), Advances in the conceptualization of the stress process: Essays in honor of Leonard I. Pearlin (pp. 3–21). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  107. Turner, R. J., & Avison, W. R. (2003). Status variations in stress exposure: Implications for the interpretation of research on race, socioeconomic status, and gender. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 44, 488–505.

    Google Scholar 

  108. Turner, R. J., Wheaton, B., & Lloyd, D. A. (1995). The epidemiology of social stress. American Sociological Review, 60, 104–125.

    Google Scholar 

  109. Umberson, D., Liu, H., & Reczek, C. (2008). Stress and health behaviour over the life course. In H. A. Turner & S. Schieman (Eds.), Advances in life course research: Stress processes across the life course (Vol. 13, pp. 19–44). Oxford, UK: JAI Press.

    Google Scholar 

  110. Uno, H., Eisele, S., Sakai, A., Shelton, S., Baker, E., DeJesus, O., & Holden, J. (1994). Neurotoxicity of glucocorticoids in the primate brain. Hormones and Behavior, 28, 336–348.

    Google Scholar 

  111. Van den Bergh, B. R. H., Mulder, E. J. H., 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. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 29, 237–258.

    Google Scholar 

  112. VanderWeele, T. J., & Hernan, M. A. (2013). Causal inference under multiple versions of treatment. Journal of Causal Inference, 1, 1–20.

    Google Scholar 

  113. Weinstock, M. (2008). The long-term behavioural consequences of prenatal stress. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 32, 1073–1086.

    Google Scholar 

  114. Welberg, L. A. M., & Seckl, J. R. (2001). Prenatal stress, glucocorticoids and the programming of the brain. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 13, 113–128.

    Google Scholar 

  115. Wheaton, B., & Montazer, S. (2009). Stressors, stress, and distress. In T. L. Scheid & T. N. Brown (Eds.), A handbook for the study of mental health social contexts, theories, and systems (pp. 171–199). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The author thanks the Departamento de Estudios Sociológicos at Universidad Católica de Chile for implementing the fieldwork. Viviana Salinas provided outstanding assistance managing the project, and Alejandra Abufhele and Daniela Aranis provided exceptional research assistantship. The author also thanks Nicole Marwell, Carolina Milesi, Ricardo Rosas, Matt Salganik, Rachel Sherman, Donald Treiman, and the Demography editors and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. This study was partially funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant SES 1023841) and the United Nations Development Program UNDP.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Florencia Torche.

Electronic supplementary material

ESM 1

(DOCX 48.1 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Torche, F. Prenatal Exposure to an Acute Stressor and Children’s Cognitive Outcomes. Demography 55, 1611–1639 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-018-0700-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Prenatal stress
  • Cognitive ability
  • Natural experiment