Early origins of mental disorder - risk factors in the perinatal and infant period

Louise Newman, Fiona Judd, Craig A. Olsson, David Castle, Chad Bousman, Penelope Sheehan, Christos Pantelis, Jeffrey M. Craig, Angela Komiti, Ian Everall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is increasing understanding of the significance of early neurodevelopment in establishing risk for the range of mental disorders. Models of the early aetiology of mental disorders are complex with a range of potential factors from genetic and epigenetic to environmental influencing neurological and psychological development. Whilst the mechanisms are not fully understood, this paper provides an overview of potential biological and neurobiological factors that might be involved. Method: An aetiological model is presented and discussed. The discussion includes a range of risk factors for mental disorder. Maternal anxiety disorder is presented and reviewed as an example of the interaction of placental, epigenetic and early parenting factors elevating risk of poor neonatal outcome. Results: Available evidence points to the importance of in-utero influences as well as the role of early attachment and emotional care. Transgenerational mechanisms such as the impact of maternal mental disorder on foetal development are important models for examination of early risk. Maternal anxiety, as an example, is a significant risk factor for compromised mental health. Conclusions: Development of models for understanding the early origins of mental disorder is an important step in elaborating risk reduction strategies. Comprehensive early identification of risk raises the possibility of preventive interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number270
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Attachment
  • Babyhood
  • Neurobiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Social and emotional development

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