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Maternal anxiety disorders predict excessive infant crying: a prospective longitudinal study
  1. Johanna Petzoldt,
  2. Hans-Ulrich Wittchen,
  3. Julia Wittich,
  4. Franziska Einsle,
  5. Michael Höfler,
  6. Julia Martini
  1. Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Johanna Petzoldt, Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Chemnitzer Straße 46, Dresden 01187, Germany; johanna.petzoldt{at}


Purpose To prospectively examine relations between maternal DSM-IV-TR anxiety and depressive disorders and excessive infant crying.

Methods Based on the prospective longitudinal Maternal Anxiety in Relation to Infant Development Study, n=306 expectant mothers were enrolled during early pregnancy and repeatedly interviewed until 16 months post partum. Lifetime and prospective information on maternal anxiety and depressive disorders was assessed via standardised diagnostic interviews (Composite International Diagnostic Interview for Women). Excessive crying (crying for ≥3 h per day on ≥3 days per week for ≥3 weeks) was assessed via Baby-DIPS. During the first 16 months after delivery, n=286 mother-infant dyads were available and included in the analyses.

Results Excessive crying was reported by n=29 mothers (10.1%). Infants of mothers with anxiety disorders prior to pregnancy were at higher risk for excessive crying than infants of mothers without any anxiety disorder prior to pregnancy (OR=2.54, 95% CI 1.11 to 5.78, p=0.027). Risk was even increased when considering additionally incident anxiety disorders until delivery (OR=3.02, 95% CI 1.25 to 7.32, p=0.014) and until 16 months post partum (OR=2.87, 95% CI 1.13 to 7.28, p=0.027). Associations remained stable when adjusting for sociodemographic and perinatal covariates. Maternal depressive disorders prior to pregnancy were not significantly associated with excessive crying in this sample.

Implications Maternal lifetime and incident anxiety disorders revealed to be a robust predictor for excessive crying. Thus, early identification and monitoring of women with anxiety disorders is important to identify mother-infant dyads at risk for excessive crying.

  • Excessive Crying
  • Maternal Anxiety Disorder
  • Maternal Depressive Disorder
  • Prospective-Longitudinal
  • Infant Crying Spells

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