Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published (online) in Ani Mamourian, ed., Oxford bibliographies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); doi: 10.1093/OBO/9780199828340-0135


Copyright © 2013 Oxford University Press. Used by permission.


For decades, researchers have investigated how events in the prenatal period impact women and their infants. These studies, particularly by researchers in the medical, neuroscience, and behavioral science fields, led to discoveries of important information regarding the prenatal events that were strongly associated with mortality (or death) and morbidity (or incidences of injury, pathology and abnormalities/anomalies, and neurobehavioral sequelae) in the neonatal and infancy periods. Among the many common findings from early research studies, two are particularly noteworthy. First, maternal and fetal risk conditions arising in the prenatal period do not do so in isolation. Sameroff and Chandler characterized this as a “continuum of reproductive casualty,” in which several risks become linked together and affect events during pregnancy, outcomes at birth, and in infant and child development in subsequent years (Sameroff, Arnold. J., and Michael J. Chandler. 1975. Reproductive risk and the continuum of caretaker casualty. In Review of Child Development Research. Vol. 4. Edited by Francis D. Horowitz, 187–244. Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Second, the impacts of these risk events on outcomes were found to vary, and not all pregnancies nor all neonates and infants were impacted to the same extent, if at all. Indeed, Sameroff and Chandler addressed the variability or uncertainty of impacts of prenatal events by adding a “continuum of caretaking casualty” to their model to include the important roles of family, society, and the environment. This resulting “transactional model of development” brought attention to the importance of genetic, biological, and environmental interactions before and after birth on the outcomes observed in neonates, infants, and children. Across time, research interests in prenatal and perinatal risks and their impacts on neonates, infants, and children have expanded to the extent that many variables heavily researched in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s are no longer hot topics. Instead, advances in research and meta-analysis designs, statistical and data modeling, new technologies, and multidisciplinary collaborations are enabling investigations that were either not attempted in the past or only to a limited extent.