Maternal stress during pregnancy and early childhood development

Matias Berthelon, Diana Kruger, Rafael Sanchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We estimate the impact of prenatal stress on early childhood development outcomes known as “middle years” or intermediate outcomes, which has not been studied previously. Using a unique measure of actual maternal stress induced by a large earthquake, we find that relative to children that were not exposed, in utero maternal stress reduces children's cognitive skills and socio-emotional problems by age 3, and that the effects are heterogeneous. The negative impacts on cognitive skills occur during the first trimester of pregnancy and are found among both low and high-income children, and boys and girls. The harmful effects on socio-emotional behaviors occur when stress is experienced in the last trimester of pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101047
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Child development
  • Chile
  • Early childhood
  • Earthquake
  • In utero stress
  • Maternal mental health
  • Maternal stress


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