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Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation

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  • Petra Persson
  • Maya Rossin-Slater

Abstract

This paper studies how in utero exposure to maternal stress from family ruptures affects later mental health. We find that prenatal exposure to the death of a maternal relative increases take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood. Further, family ruptures during pregnancy depress birth outcomes and raise the risk of perinatal complications necessitating hospitalization. Our results suggest large welfare gains from preventing fetal stress from family ruptures and possibly from economically induced stressors such as unemployment. They further suggest that greater stress exposure among the poor may partially explain the intergenerational persistence of poverty.

Suggested Citation

  • Petra Persson & Maya Rossin-Slater, 2018. "Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(4-5), pages 1214-1252, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:108:y:2018:i:4-5:p:1214-52
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20141406
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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