Intergenerational disadvantage: why maternal mental health matters

Mothers Maternal and infant welfare Pregnancy Mental health New Zealand

This paper analyses and synthesises new research linking a mother’s prenatal mental health to the child’s brain development, and shows how this ties into the problem of intergenerational disadvantage in New Zealand.

Children whose mothers experienced depression/anxiety during pregnancy are more likely to have impaired brain (‘executive’) function, with lifelong consequences. This suggests that there is a biological contribution to intergenerational disadvantage, in addition to environmental factors, and that interventions focusing on maternal mental wellbeing to promote children’s brain function could have significant impact.

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