Maternal exposure to psychosocial job strain during pregnancy and behavioral problems in the 11-year-old children: a Danish cohort study

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Maternal psychosocial stress may impact child neurodevelopment, but little is known regarding psychosocial job strain. We hypothesized high psychosocial job strain during pregnancy was associated with behavioural problems in the 11-year-old children. Mothers in the Danish National Birth Cohort (1996–2002) were included if they worked, provided information on job strain [Karasek’s model: high job strain (often job demand/seldom job control) and passive (seldom or sometimes job demands/seldom job control)] during early pregnancy. At the 11-year follow-up, children (N = 30,592), mothers (N = 30,993), and teachers (N = 12,810) responded to the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), a screening tool for child behaviour. Scores for hyperactivity, conduct, emotional and peer problems were dichotomised [80% (no) vs. 20% (yes)] according to Danish norms (yes/no). Maternal job strain was not associated with behavioural problems with teachers as informants. When assessed by child or mother, high maternal job strain increased risk of child behavioural problems, but risks were more pronounced for mothers in passive jobs [maternal assessment of total difficulties/odds ratio (95% confidence interval): high strain—girls: 1.16 (0.97–1.40); boys: 1.24 (1.02–1.50). Passive girls: 1.43 (1.21–1.68); boys: 1.25 (1.05–1.49)]. This is one of the first studies on this topic. The different types of maternal job strain were partly associated with child behavioural problems at 11 years; more so if mothers worked in passive rather than the hypothesized high strain jobs. Findings showing dependency on informant could not only indicate unmeasured confounding or rater’s bias, but also selection in the smaller numbers of teacher informants or different environments of interaction with the children.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

    Research areas

  • Multi-informant, Occupational, Prenatal stress, Rating by child, mother or teacher, SDQ

ID: 248543108