Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1186/s12889-022-13261-2
Licence creative commons licence
Title (Primary) Maternal stress, child behavior and the promotive role of older siblings
Author Amici, F.; Röder, S. ORCID logo ; Kiess, W.; Borte, M.; Zenclussen, A.C.; Widdig, A.; Herberth, G. ORCID logo
Source Titel BMC Public Health
Year 2022
Department IMMU
Volume 22
Page From art. 863
Language englisch
Topic T9 Healthy Planet
Keywords Siblings; Risk factors; Promotive factors; Protective factors; Maternal stress; Child development


In the first years of their lives, children develop the cognitive, social and emotional skills that will provide the foundations for their lifelong health and achievements. To increase their life prospects and reduce the long-term effects of early aversive conditions, it is therefore crucial to understand the risk factors that negatively affect child development and the factors that are instead beneficial. In this study, we tested (i) the effects of different social and environmental stressors on maternal stress levels, (ii) the dynamic relationship between maternal stress and child behavior problems during development, and (iii) the potential promotive (i.e. main) or protective (i.e. buffering) effect of siblings on child behavior problems during development.


We used longitudinal data from 373 mother–child pairs (188 daughters, 185 sons) from pregnancy until 10 years of age. We assessed maternal stress and child behavior problems (internalizing and externalizing) with validated questionnaires, and then used linear mixed models, generalized linear mixed models and longitudinal cross-lagged models to analyze the data.


Our results showed that higher maternal stress levels were predicted by socio-environmental stressors (i.e. the lack of sufficient social areas in the neighborhood). Moreover, prenatal maternal stress reliably predicted the occurrence of behavior problems during childhood. Finally, the presence of older siblings had a promotive function, by reducing the likelihood that children developed externalizing problems.


Overall, our results confirm the negative effects that maternal stress during pregnancy may have on the offspring, and suggest an important main effect of older siblings in promoting a positive child development.


Persistent UFZ Identifier
Amici, F., Röder, S., Kiess, W., Borte, M., Zenclussen, A.C., Widdig, A., Herberth, G. (2022):
Maternal stress, child behavior and the promotive role of older siblings
BMC Public Health 22 , art. 863 10.1186/s12889-022-13261-2