Acute stress in utero has negative effects later in life among poor children, Stanford sociologist finds
Exposure to an acute stress in utero can have long-term consequences extending into childhood – but only among children in poor households, according to a new Stanford study that looked at the long-term impact of acute, parental stress.
Because stress is often confounded with other factors, the study used a natural disaster – a strong earthquake in Chile – to explore the impact on children’s development of an acutely stressful event occurring during their mothers’ pregnancy. This data could then be compared with similar children who did not experience the catastrophe in utero.
The results from the study, led by Florencia Torche, a sociology professor in the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences, showed that among poor families, children prenatally exposed to the earthquake had lower levels of cognitive ability than children in a comparable control group.