Correlation of High Maternal Perceived Stress During Pregnancy and Offspring Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Japan

Kouichi Yoshimasu, Chikako Kiyohara and the Wakayama ADHD Study Group

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized as inattentiveness and/or impulsiveness and hyperactivity unsuitable for a developmental stage or age. Although the mechanism leading to the onset of the disease is still unclear, it is a condition that seriously hinders a child’s social or learning ability.



Although some evidence has suggested that maternal mental stress during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of offspring attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), non-Caucasian studies with appropriate adjustments for confounding factors have not yet been conducted.


To examine the relationship between maternal perceived mental stress during pregnancy and offspring ADHD among Japanese.


A total of 90 pairs of ADHD children and mothers as well as 290 corresponding comparison pairs were recruited throughout the study period. In brief, a psychiatrist interviewed all the mothers of ADHD and comparison children, and elicited information regarding their lifestyles during pregnancy including mental stress as well as other psychosocial, perinatal, and lifestyle factors. The diagnosis of ADHD was made by each physician in charge according to DSM-IV diagnostic criteria.


Severe antenatal mental stress was significantly associated with an approximately eightfold increased risk of offspring ADHD, even after adjusting for potential confounders such as socioeconomic and perinatal factors (OR 7.7, 95% CI, 3.1–19.2).


High maternal perceived mental stress during pregnancy might be a significant risk factor for offspring ADHD among Japanese. Our findings must be validated by prospective studies using a larger sample size and a more detailed assessment of mental stress in non-Caucasian populations.


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