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Background: Growing evidence shows an association between in utero exposure to natural disasters and child behavioral problems, but we still know little about the development of specific psychopathology in preschool-aged children. Methods: Preschool children (n = 163, mean age = 3.19, 85.5% racial and ethnic minorities) and their parents (n = 151) were evaluated annually at ages 2–5 to assess the emergence of psychopathology using the Preschool Age Psychopathological Assessment (PAPA), a parent-report structured diagnostic interview developed for preschool-age children. Sixty-six (40.5%) children were exposed to Sandy Storm (SS) in utero and 97 (59.5%) were not. Survival analysis evaluated patterns of onset and estimated cumulative risks of psychopathology among exposed and unexposed children, in total and by sex. Analyses were controlled for the severity of objective and subjective SS-related stress, concurrent family stress, and demographic and psychosocial confounders, such as maternal age, race, SES, maternal substance use, and normative prenatal stress. Results: Exposure to SS in utero was associated with a substantial increase in depressive disorders (Hazard Ratio (HR) = 16.9, p = .030), anxiety disorders (HR = 5.1, p < .0001), and attention-deficit/disruptive behavioral disorders (HR = 3.4, p = .02). Diagnostic rates were elevated for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD; HR = 8.5, p = .004), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; HR = 5.5, p = .01), oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD; HR = 3.8, p = .05), and separation-anxiety disorder (SAD; HR = 3.5, p = .001). Males had distinctively elevated risks for attention-deficit/disruptive behavioral disorders (HR = 7.8, p = .02), including ADHD, CD, and ODD, whereas females had elevated risks for anxiety disorders (HR = 10.0, p < .0001), phobia (HR = 2.8, p = .02) and depressive disorders (HR = 30.0, p = .03), including SAD, GAD, and dysthymia. Conclusions: The findings demonstrate that in utero exposure to a major weather-related disaster (SS) was associated with increased risk for psychopathology in children and provided evidence of distinct psychopathological outcomes as a function of sex. More attention is needed to understand specific parent, child, and environmental factors which account for this increased risk, and to develop mitigation strategies.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Nomura, Yoko, Jeffrey H. Newcorn, Christine Ginalis, Catherine Heitz, Jennia Zaki, Farzana Khan, Mardia Nasrin, Kathryn Sie, Donato Delngeniis, and Yasmin L. Hurd. "Prenatal exposure to a natural disaster and early development of psychiatric disorders during the preschool years: stress in pregnancy study." The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2022, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.



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