Specific relations of dimensional anxiety and manifest anxiety disorders during pregnancy with difficult early infant temperament: a longitudinal cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Anxiety in the antenatal period is a common experience, associated with adverse consequences for mother and child. Specific types of prenatal anxiety may have unique associations with infant temperament. This study examines the prospective relationships between general prenatal anxiety, fear of childbirth, and specific prenatal anxiety disorders and early infant temperament 8 weeks postpartum. Data were derived from the Akershus Birth Cohort (ABC), a longitudinal cohort study which targeted all women scheduled to give birth at Akershus University Hospital, Norway. Psychometric measures pertained to general prenatal anxiety (Hopkins Symptom Checklist), fear of childbirth (Wijma delivery expectancy questionnaire), screening for manifest prenatal anxiety disorders based on questions from the mini-international neuropsychiatric interview, and difficult infant temperament (Infant Characteristics Questionnaire). The sample for the present study included 2206 women. General prenatal anxiety, fear of childbirth, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and specific phobia presented unique significant prospective contributions to difficult infant temperament 8 weeks postpartum. Separate hierarchical regression models indicated that general prenatal anxiety and fear of childbirth provided the strongest unique contributions. Considering the burden on mothers and the potential long-term effects on child development, the findings of this study highlight the importance of screening women for different types of prenatal anxiety in routine obstetric care. Clinical awareness of the condition and its consequences is warranted. Due to the complexity of infant temperament as a construct with various influences, future research should consider mechanisms and influential factors pertaining to the relationship between prenatal anxiety and infant temperament.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-546
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of women's mental health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC7369131
Scopus 85078602365
ORCID /0000-0002-7472-674X/work/142257715



  • Adult, Anxiety/complications, Anxiety Disorders/complications, Child Development, Cohort Studies, Fear, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant Behavior, Longitudinal Studies, Middle Aged, Norway, Postpartum Period, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications/psychology, Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects/psychology, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Temperament, Young Adult