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HomeHealthADHD may be more likely in worried pregnant women's children

ADHD may be more likely in worried pregnant women’s children

  • Maternal stress links ADHD.
  • Behavioral risks increase.
  • Mental health care essential.

Children of pregnant mothers who experienced stress may have an increased risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

An estimated three to four percent of adolescents in the United Kingdom suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition characterized by restlessness, impulsivity, and difficulty concentrating.

A scientific evaluation of 55 studies found that the likelihood of developing ADHD in children was increased if their mothers experienced depression, anxiety, or stress during pregnancy.

Furthermore, there was an increased propensity for aggressive behaviour, including striking and fighting, and manifestations of ‘oppositional defiant disorder’ (ODD), characterized by disruptive and negative conduct, especially in the presence of authority figures such as educators and parents.

Study Findings

They showed more “conduct disorder” (CD), which causes theft, vandalism, and violence.

The review incorporated research studies involving over 45,000 participants, with a primary focus on depression and anxiety. However, it highlighted two studies that asked pregnant women about stress frequency and severity.

Between the ages of two and eighteen, parents evaluated their children’s extrinsic behavior, such as hostility and aggression. The assessment also considered their internalized behavior, such as anxiety, and determined whether they had ADHD, ODD, and CD.


The study found more symptoms of the three diseases and negative behaviour among boys and girls. This occurred in cases where mothers experienced higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress during pregnancy.

Some specialists believe these women may release stress-related hormones that affect their unborn child’s brain development.

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Variations in foetal brain development and behavioural regulation among young children have been associated with the development of behavioural issues.

An evolutionary rationale could be that a distressed maternal body communicates to her developing foetus that she is in a perilous environment, thereby enhancing the fetus’s vigilance against threats and enabling it to respond more forcefully to them upon their arrival in the world.

The study’s leader, Dr. Irene Tung of California State University, stated, “Our research indicates that psychological distress during pregnancy has a marginal but persistent effect on the risk of aggressive, disinhibited, and impulsive behaviour in children.”

Study Findings

“These findings further support the notion that ensuring widespread availability of mental health care and support during pregnancy could be an essential measure in mitigating the occurrence of behavioural issues in children.”

The review was published in the journal Psychological Bulletin. In two- to five-year-olds, discomfort during pregnancy was linked to ODD, ADHD, and CD.

The correlation was comparatively weaker among adolescents aged 13 to 18 and elder children aged six to twelve.

The conditions and behaviours were primarily documented by parents, with instructors also providing reports.

Despite the researchers accounting for the stress levels of women following the birth of their children, these conditions remained associated with anxiety, melancholy, and stress during pregnancy.

However, despite being significant, the correlation between distress and children’s behaviour was discovered to be weak.

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