The researchers had found evidence of this link in two previous studies, said lead author Heejoo Jo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
“We wanted to see if we would find the same association using a variety of different measures,” said Jo.
“We did find pretty large associations, much bigger than we thought,” she said.
Jo and her coauthors studied data on 1,311 mother-child pairs collected between 2005 and 2012, including the mothers’ body mass index (BMI, a height-to-weight ratio) before pregnancy and their reports of the children’s psychosocial difficulties at age six. (On online BMI calculator is here: 1.usa.gov/1ooHYzU.)
The researchers also incorporated the children’s developmental diagnoses and receipt of special needs services.
Kids of moms who were severely obese, with a BMI greater than 35, were twice as likely to have emotional symptoms, problems with peers and total psychosocial difficulties compared to kids of moms who had a healthy BMI, between 18.5 and 25.
They were three times as likely to have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and more than four times as likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as reported in Pediatrics.
The researchers accounted for pregnancy weight gain, gestational diabetes, breastfeeding duration, postpartum depression and infant birth weight, none of which explained the apparent link.