Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation
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.
This paper was previously circulated under the title “Family Ruptures and Intergenerational Transmission of Stress”. This project has been evaluated for ethical compliance by the Swedish Central Ethical Review Board (Approval # 2011:1297/31). We are grateful to Malin Olsson-Talläs for excellent research assistance. We thank Anna Aizer, Doug Almond, Marcella Alsan, Prashant Bharadwaj, Lorenzo Casaburi, Pierre-André Chiappori, Rebecca Diamond, Pascaline Dupas, Mikael Elinder, Oscar Erixon, Sebastian Escobar, Johannes Haushofer, Caroline Hoxby, Shelly Lundberg, Melissa Kearney, Peter Kuhn, Ilyana Kuziemko, Magne Mogstad, Henry Ohlsson, Torsten Persson, Heather Royer, Kjell Salvanes, Heidi Williams, four anonymous referees, and participants at the Berkeley Haas Oliver Williamson seminar, the NBER Children’s Group Spring Meeting, the NBER Summer Institute Health Economics Meeting, the Institute for International Economic Studies, the Bergen-Stavanger Workshop in Labor Economics, the Economic Demography Workshop at the PAA Meetings, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Bi- Weekly Discussion Group, the UCSB Broom Center for Demography, and Uppsala University for helpful comments. Data acquisition was financed by Grant # 2011-FOA11H-146 from The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Persson gratefully acknowledges funding from the Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation. All remaining errors are our own. The authors declare that they have no relevant or material financial interests that relate to the research described in this paper. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
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