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Family Ruptures and Intergenerational Transmission of Stress

Author

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  • Persson, Petra

    () (Stanford University)

  • Rossin-Slater, Maya

    () (University of California at Santa Barbara)

Abstract

The high and rapidly increasing prevalence of mental illnesses underscores the importance of understanding their causal origins. This paper analyzes one factor at a critical stage of human development: exposure to maternal stress from family ruptures during the fetal period. We find that in utero exposure to the death of a maternal close relative has lasting consequences on mental health in adulthood, as captured by 11 and 9 percent increases in the consumption of prescription drugs treating anxiety and depression, respectively, and a 23 percent increase in the average daily dose of medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).Further, children exposed prenatally to the death of a relative up to four generations apart are 20 percent more likely to be born low-birth-weight and 11 percent more likely to be hospitalized for conditions originating in the perinatal period in early childhood.Our results imply large welfare gains from preventing fetal exposure to severe stress; the decrease in consumption of prescription drugs treating depression alone can be valued at nearly $ 1 billion. More generally, our results point to in utero stress exposure as a potential cause of the rising incidence of several mental illnesses.

Suggested Citation

  • Persson, Petra & Rossin-Slater, Maya, 2014. "Family Ruptures and Intergenerational Transmission of Stress," Working Paper Series 1022, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:1022
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    Cited by:

    1. Anna Aizer & Laura Stroud & Stephen Buka, 2016. "Maternal Stress and Child Outcomes: Evidence from Siblings," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(3), pages 523-555.
    2. Duncan, Brian & Mansour, Hani & Rees, Daniel I., 2015. "Prenatal Stress and Low Birth Weight: Evidence from the Super Bowl," IZA Discussion Papers 9053, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Mental health; Stress; Parental death; In utero; Depression; ADHD;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • 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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