Maternal psychological problems during pregnancy and child externalizing problems: Moderated mediation model with child self-regulated compliance and polygenic risk scores for aggression

Mannan Luo, Irene Pappa, Charlotte A. M. Cecil, Philip Jansen, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Rianne Kok*

*Corresponding author for this work

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A potential pathway underlying the association between prenatal exposure to maternal psychological problems and childhood externalizing problems is child self-regulation. This prospective study (N = 687) examined whether self-regulated compliance mediates the relation between maternal affective problems and hostility during pregnancy and childhood externalizing problems, and explored moderation by child polygenic risk scores for aggression and sex. Self-regulated compliance at age 3 was observed in mother-child interactions, and externalizing problems at age 6 were reported by mothers and teachers. Polygenic risk scores were calculated based on a genome-wide association study of aggressive behavior. Self-regulated compliance mediated the associations between maternal psychological problems and externalizing problems. Aggression PRS was associated with higher externalizing problems reported by mothers. No evidence was found of moderation by aggression PRS or sex. These findings support the hypothesis that maternal psychological problems during pregnancy might influence externalizing problems through early self-regulation, regardless of child genetic susceptibility or sex.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)654-666
Number of pages13
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Issue number4
Early online date20 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Generation R Study is conducted by the Erasmus Medical Center in close collaboration with the School of Law and Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences at Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Municipal Health Service Rotterdam area, the Rotterdam Homecare Foundation, and the Stichting Trombosedienst & Artsenlaboratorium Rijnmond (STAR-MDC), Rotterdam. The general design of the Generation R Study was made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Medical Center, the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of children and parents, general practitioners, hospitals, midwives and pharmacies in Rotterdam. ML is supported by the scholarship from the China Scholarship Council (201706990036); CC has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 707404 and grant agreement No. 848158 (EarlyCause Project); RK is supported by an EUR Fellowship Grant from the Erasmus University Rotterdam; MHvIJ is supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (SPINOZA prize).

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© 2021, The Author(s).

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