Personality and stress appraisal in adults prenatally exposed to the Dutch famine

Susanne R. de Rooij, Marjolein V. E. Veenendaal, Katri Räikkönen, Tessa J. Roseboom

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Background: Previous studies have shown that prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine is associated with an increased risk for several psychiatric disorders. Variation in personality characteristics and in stress appraisal may underlie mental disorders. Aims: To investigate whether prenatal famine exposure is associated with personality characteristics and stress appraisal. Study design: Cohort study. Subjects: Participants included a total of 572 men and women, born as term singletons in a local hospital in Amsterdam around the time of the 1944-1945 Dutch famine. Outcome measures: Scores on the Big Five Inventory and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). Results: There were no statistically significant differences in the personality traits openness. conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism or in PSS scores between those unexposed and those exposed to famine during early, mid or late gestation. However, there were statistically significant (P = 0.01) and borderline significant interactions (P = 0.07) respectively between exposure to famine during early gestation and sex on conscientiousness and agreeableness. Subsequent analyses showed that men exposed to famine during early gestation had lower conscientiousness scores and women exposed during early gestation had higher agreeableness scores. Conclusions: We conclude that conscientiousness and agreeableness may differ between men and women unexposed and exposed to famine during early gestation. As evidence was not very robust, future research should confirm the present findings. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-325
JournalEarly human development
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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