Pregnancy and Infant Development (PRIDE) Study

Through early and sustained parent engagement, home visiting programs aim to ensure healthy offspring social-emotional development. Potentially undermining these efforts are the early adverse environments experienced by mothers and children that can disrupt early development. Emerging evidence points to epigenetics as having a role in ‘programming’ risk for poor child social-emotional development. However, no research exists within the context of home visiting in which the intervention touches several phases of early development 0-3 years. Prenatal and postnatal exposures to adversity may elicit changes in how a child’s genes function (expression), potentially leading to alterations in developmental trajectories, behavior, and even program impact. Through a grant from Cincinnati Children’s, Every Child Succeeds partnered with the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology to investigate the relationships between maternal prenatal adversity (e.g., depressive symptoms), neonatal epigenetic differences (e.g., DNA methylation of genes involved in the physiologic stress response), and infant development. The Pregnancy and Infant Development (PRIDE) Study began in 2015 and completed in 2017, enrolling 53 mother-child dyads. Although the study was a pilot, and programs cannot yet integrate findings into practice decisions, preliminary evidence draws attention to factors such as maternal depression that may influence offspring biological risk for poor developmental risk. Further, as home visiting seeks novel approaches to demonstrate impact, better understanding of insidious biological vulnerabilities may provide insight to program effects.