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SNAPSHOT: The Children of Superstorm Sandy

According to a new study, the effect of a pregnant mother’s depression on her infant can be made significantly worse by the stress of a natural disaster.

The study, published in the Infant Mental Health Journal, looked at mothers who had been pregnant in New York City during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Close-up of baby crying

Previous findings have shown that if a mother experiences depression during her pregnancy, it can negatively affect the baby’s temperament. The new study adds to this, demonstrating that if the mother was both depressed and pregnant during the superstorm, the infant showed even higher rates of distress and lower rates of pleasure-seeking activities.

“With an increase in the number of natural disasters due to climate change, we should be mindful to look out for the high-risk mothers,” said Professor Yoko Nomura (Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY), lead author on the study, “because the implication for their offspring could be eased with proper intervention.”

Nomura previously co-authored a paper with doctoral candidate Jessica Buthmann on the emotional and behavioral effects of Superstorm Sandy on infants whose families experienced storm-related hardships. It was published in Child Psychiatry & Human Development.