The missing link?

As any parent of a child with a serious illness can tell you, one of the hardest things to deal with is the guilt that comes from the knowledge that you — the parent — may have had something to do with it. “What could I have done differently?” is the common question.

So, this probably won’t help. Some new research out today suggests that there’s a connection between the stress of a mother during pregnancy, and mental illness of the child.

According to Time magazine


The study group consisted of 1.38 million births recorded in Denmark, from 1973 to 1995. Children were followed from age 10 until their death, their departure from Denmark, the onset of schizophrenia or the end of the study period in 2005. Researchers determined also whether the birth mothers had suffered extreme stress — due either to the death or illness (heart attack, cancer or stroke) of a first-degree relative — six months prior to and at any time during pregnancy. The data showed that women who experienced a close family member’s death during the first three months of pregnancy had a 67% increased risk of having a child who would develop schizophrenia later in life. Stress before pregnancy or in late pregnancy had no such effect; neither did stress associated with a family member’s illness.

Researchers stress the data is too small to reach firm conclusions. But that won’t stop a lot of mothers — and fathers, too — from wringing their hands just a little tighter.

  • Sylvia

    Look at the country that did the study. It’s possible that Scandinavian countries have more problems with mental illnesses of all kinds than other populations. Perhaps there are genetic or environmental causes that have been overlooked. I don’t think this result can be extrapolated willynilly elsewhere.

    Also in another few years this finding may be reversed by more research, as many “stress-causes-this-problem” studies have been.

  • Esme Louder

    Why are we only studying mothers? Fathers are just as much a factor and perhaps a direct cause, if not the cause of the mother’s stress!!!!!!!!!!

    Freud is still alive and well. Just ask any mother of a child with a mental illess-they are always BLAMED!!!