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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Contributor
November 19, 2012

Stressed Would-Be Mothers Are More Likely To Have Children Susceptible to Bullying

Research shows that a mother's anxiety may affect her child's way of dealing with tense situations, increasing his likelihood of being victimized. By Charlene J. Owen

According to, pregnant mothers who are stressed are more likely to increase their children's chances of being bullied years later.

Previous investigations have proven the adverse behavioral effects of stress to a developing offspring, but none have yet related a mother’s anxiety to a child’s susceptibility to bullying. Dieter Wolke, Professor of Developmental Psychology at University of Warwick and Warwick Medical School and his team explored this connection.

Working with 8,829 children from the long-term Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) involving 14,000 mothers whose statuses have been followed since pregnancy, the researchers collated data on pre- and post-natal maternal anxiety, family issues, and depression episodes. The kids’ likelihood to be victimized between seven and 10 years old was also evaluated via interviews.

They found that as a mother’s stress during pregnancy can affect a child’s behavioral state after birth, this may cause the child to be more prone to being victimized due to their reaction to tense situations. Wolke explains, "Changes in the stress response system can affect behavior and how children react emotionally to stress such as being picked on by a bully. Children who more easily show a stress reaction such as crying, running away, and anxiety are then selected by bullies to home in to."

There are many ways to avert stress, but aside from the usual meditation, exercise, and happy thoughts, it’s important to know that as a pregnant woman, you aren’t in this alone. Whatever issue has gotten you all worked up, it’s important to remember that you have family and friends who are more than willing to support you. Opening up, processing, and letting go will not only do you good, but your child as well.

(Photo by leonshishman via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Charlene J. Owen
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