U. WARWICK (UK) — Children whose mothers were overly stressed while pregnant are more likely to be bullied at school later.
A new study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, shows that stress and mental health problems in pregnant women may affect her developing baby and directly increase the risk of the child being victimized in later life.
The research team identified the main prenatal stress factors as severe family problems, such as financial difficulty or alcohol/drug abuse, and maternal mental health.
“This is the first study to investigate stress in pregnancy and a child’s vulnerability to being bullied. When we are exposed to stress, large quantities of neurohormones are released into the blood stream and in a pregnant woman this can change the developing fetus’ own stress response system,” says Dieter Wolke, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Warwick and Warwick Medical School.
“Changes in the stress response system can affect behavior and how children react emotionally to stress such as being picked on by a bully. Children who more easily show a stress reaction such as crying, running away, or anxiety are then selected by bullies to home in to.
“The whole thing becomes a vicious cycle, a child with an altered stress response system is more likely to be bullied, which affects their stress response even further and increases the likelihood of them developing mental health problems in later life.”
Source: University of Warwick