Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Pre- and Perinatal Experiences and Personality: A Retrospective Analysis

Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Pre- and Perinatal Experiences and Personality: A Retrospective Analysis

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Two thousand, one hundred and sixteen subjects from a variety of backgrounds and places of origin responded to a questionnaire concerning their preand perinatal experiences and their present personality. Of particular interest were potential relationships between present personality and maternal drug use during pregnancy and labour, maternal stress during pregnancy, birth type, and physical placement immediately after birth. Responses were analyzed using non-parametric chi-square tests, t-tests, and point biserial correlations. Few of the specifically delineated hypotheses were supported. However, a variety of statistically significant results were found for the more general hypotheses. These findings may lend support to the overall postulate that different pre- and perinatal experiences are related to different personality traits.

Recent years have seen an increase in studies on the relationships between pre-natal, birth and post-natal experiences and personality. The present study is a retrospective analysis of the relationship between pre- and perinatal experiences and personality, and utilizes the responses to a questionnaire answered by adults and youths in the general populace.


In order to introduce this area of research, the findings of past studies will be reviewed. This review will focus on several areas including the relationships found to date between personality and the use of drugs by mothers during pregnancy or birth of the individual. It will also look at the correlations found thus far between a mother's stress during pregnancy and an individual's personality. In addition, it will look at the different correlations found between different types of births and present personality. Furthermore, the correlation between infants' post-natal stress and later personality will be examined. Some of the potential problems associated with these studies will then be highlighted, along with the means by which the present research has endeavored to improve upon these problems. Hypotheses as formulated on the basis of past findings will then be tested and discussed.


Ingested chemical agents work to divert the blood flow away from the internal organs. When they are ingested by a pregnant woman they further act to deplete the oxygen supply to the fetus (Hull 1986). Clinical case studies have reported that individuals exposed prenatally to large doses of nicotine, alcohol, non-prescription drugs, or to different pain killers during their births may be more prone to become addicted to drugs or alcohol than will others who have not been exposed to such influences (Hull 1986). In addition, they might be at an increased risk for psychological disorders including anxiety (Jacobson 1988; Verny & Kelly 1981). Furthermore, any deficiencies in the baby caused by chemical or other agents may make it more difficult for the mother to bond with her child. The bonding process is seen as highly important for the long-term emotional well-being of the individual (Klaus & Kennel 1983).


Just as the pharmaceutical chemicals the mother takes during pregnancy are transferred to the fetus, involuntary hormonal secretions are also transferred, such as those experienced during stress, distress, trauma, anxiety, extreme fear and grief (Montagu 1964; Verny & Kelly 1981). Just like the pharmaceutical drugs, these natural chemicals divert the blood flow away from the internal organs and thus deplete the oxygen supply to the fetus (Hull 1986). Some studies on the long-term effects of severe maternal stress on the infant point to specific psychological and/or physical implications (e.g., Stott 1973).


Recently, studies have begun to focus on the long-term effects of stress experienced by the infant during birth. Many of these studies focus on retrospective examinations (i. …

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