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

Petra Persson, Maya Rossin-Slater

NBER Working Paper No. 22229
Issued in May 2016, Revised in June 2016
NBER Program(s):Children, Health Economics, Labor Studies

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22229

Published: Petra Persson & Maya Rossin-Slater, 2018. "Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation," American Economic Review, vol 108(4-5), pages 1214-1252. citation courtesy of

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