Don’t Stress: maternal stress effects child’s diet

Maternal exposure to stress during pregnancy could have long term detrimental effects on their children’s diets, and thereby on health conditions related to diet – such as increased levels of obesity and obesity-related diseases – according to new research from Michele Belot, professor in the Department of Economics.

“Being exposed to stressful events when pregnant seems to impact the dietary preferences and diet of the children in a negative way, and for reasons that are actually aside from what the mother is eating herself,” says Belot, who has a joint appointment in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and College of Arts and Sciences. “So that means that we need to think about how to help pregnant women manage stress in a way that could be beneficial for the mother and also for the child.”

In the paper, “Maternal stress during pregnancy and children’s diet: Evidence from a population of low socioeconomic status,” Belot and her co-authors found that higher than average stress during pregnancy is linked with significantly less healthy food preferences for their children, as well as a weaker preference for sour and bitter foods.

A full version of this story can be found on the ILR website.

Julie Greco is a communications specialist in the ILR School.

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