The article, “Maternal stress during pregnancy predicts cognitive ability and fearfulness in infancy”, describes a study that aims to determine whether prenatal maternal stress has an effect on the infant’s cognition and behavioral fearfulness…
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The researcher states that Bergman sought to help clarify the nature of the relationship between maternal stress during pregnancy and adverse child outcomes found in the existing research. In order to accomplish this, the study took other variables that may affect the relationship into account. These variables were whether the effects of prenatal and postnatal stress were independent of one another, whether adverse child outcomes were related more to any particular kind of stress, and whether adverse cognitive and behavioral effects were a greater risk for the same or different children. The authors of the article felt that the best way to develop an appropriate treatment or intervention plan, they had to identify and understand the “underlying mechanisms” of the relationships between maternal stress during pregnancy and adverse child outcomes. In order to determine adverse child outcomes, the researchers purposely chose two indicators known to put children at developmental risk – fearfulness/anxiety and cognitive delay. This finding adds to the previous research by suggesting that the child may be adversely affected by domestic violence, even during the prenatal period. The study is best related to the social cognitive theory of social work which views social problems through the perspective of the individual. The social cognitive theory attempts to solve societal problems through individual counseling. Counseling pregnant women regarding the potential adverse child outcomes related to stress, for example, appears to be the most effective way to decrease and eventually eliminate stress-related adverse child outcomes. This study is important because, in addition to the previously mentioned findings, other findings not only support the existing literature but add to it as well. For example, this study found that child neurodevelopment is independently affected by prenatal maternal stress; and, this was accomplished by measuring both prenatal and postnatal maternal stress. Another interesting finding of the study is that in regard to fearfulness and cognitive outcomes, different children are affected which suggests they have different “underlying mechanisms”. More research must be conducted to help further clarify all of the previous and current findings. Furthermore, while the current study does, in fact, add to the existing body of knowledge, it is not without its limitations. One limitation of the study is the recruitment strategy and the study sample obtained with that strategy. All study participants were recruited from an amniocentesis clinic which resulted in a sample that was not representative of the average population.
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