The Role of Prenatal and Postnatal Maternal Distress on Offspring Aggression in Young Adulthood Open Access

Park, Yunsoo (2016)

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Aggression has been one of the most widely studied topics in psychology during the past several decades, as it has detrimental influences on the individual, families, and society at large. Accordingly, much empirical research has been dedicated to identifying various risk factors that contribute to the development of aggression. Maternal psychopathology (e.g., distress) has been consistently associated with a variety of negative offspring outcomes, including aggression and associated problems (e.g., antisocial behavior). However, the mechanisms underlying the effects of maternal distress on adverse offspring outcomes, as well as the long-term influence of maternal distress in the transition to adulthood, are still unclear. Furthermore, the extent to which maternal distress symptoms over the course of offspring development may differentially influence outcomes remains largely unexplored. The current studies aimed to fill these gaps in the literature by examining data obtained from a large, prospective sample to explore the relationship between prenatal and postnatal maternal distress and offspring aggression in young adulthood (age 20). In addition, we aimed to elucidate potential mediators of this developmental risk pathway. In Study 1, we examined the association between maternal distress during pregnancy and offspring aggression, and various cognitive mechanisms (cognitive ability, cognitive appraisals of stress) as potential mediators of this association. In Study 2, we examined whether distinct trajectories of maternal distress from pregnancy until offspring adolescence differentially predicted offspring aggression, and explored whether parenting style was a potential mediator of this association. Findings for Study 1 suggested that while prenatal maternal distress significantly predicted offspring aggression, the cognitive factors examined did not serve as significant mediators of this association. Findings for Study 2 supported three distinct trajectories of maternal distress and suggested that trajectory class membership was significantly associated with offspring aggression, with parenting serving as a significant mediator. Overall, the findings from the current project suggest that maternal distress, during pregnancy as well as across offspring development, has a long-term influence on offspring aggression in young adulthood, and that parenting style, but not cognitive ability or appraisals of stress during adolescence, represents a mechanism by which maternal distress contributes to offspring aggression.

Table of Contents

General Introduction 1

Study 1 Introduction 14

Study 1 Method 22

Study 1 Results 32

Study 1 Discussion 43

Study 2 Introduction 52

Study 2 Method 60

Study 2 Results 71

Study 2 Discussion 76

General Discussion 84

References 92

Tables 144

Figures 149

Appendix 158

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