Maternal medical risks during pregnancy and childhood externalizing behavior

Dylan B. Jackson, Michael George Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Research has indicated that maternal health during the prenatal period and at delivery carries far reaching significance for the development of offspring. Even so, the role of the accumulation of maternal medical risks during pregnancy in the development of externalizing behavior during childhood has generally been overlooked. Objective: The present study investigates whether the accumulation of maternal medical risks during the prenatal period is positively associated with childhood externalizing behavior, and whether this association is stronger among male offspring. Method: We examined a large, nationally representative sample of children who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). Information concerning maternal medical history, including the presence of a number of medical risks during pregnancy, was obtained through hospital records. A subsample of children with both parent and teacher reports of externalizing behavior during kindergarten was employed in the present study. Results: A greater number of maternal medical risks during pregnancy increased the odds of childhood externalizing behavior across settings, but only among male offspring. The predicted probability of persistent externalizing behavior among males increased from.084 in the absence of maternal medical risks during pregnancy to.241 in the presence of three or more maternal medical risks during pregnancy. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that maternal medical risks during the prenatal period can have far-reaching consequences for the behavioral development of male offspring. Treatment of medical risks among expectant mothers may have the added benefit of reducing the likelihood of childhood externalizing behavior among male progeny.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-24
Number of pages6
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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