Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationYale U.
Grant numberGr. 9443
Approve DateApril 18, 2017
Project TitleWiley, Kyle S., Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Intergenerational Consequences of Interpersonal Violence: The Role of Fetal Programming,' supervised by Dr. Catherine Panter-Brick
KYLE S. WILEY, then a graduate student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, received a grant in April 2017 to aid research on “Intergenerational Consequences of Interpersonal Violence: The Role of Fetal Programming,” supervised by Dr. Catherine Panter-Brick. Anthropologists and human biologists are increasingly committed to investigating the proximate mechanisms by which prenatal stress is transmitted to the next generation and the consequences of these experiences on health and wellbeing. Epigenetic and hormonal programming of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis during fetal development are potential mechanisms of transmission but remain poorly understood. This study examined the intergenerational consequences of interpersonal violence in a cohort of first-time pregnant adolescents from São Paulo, Brazil. The children of mothers who experience interpersonal violence during pregnancy had altered methylation profiles of stress regulatory genes and elevated bedtime cortisol at one year of age. Violence exposure was not associated with cortisol during pregnancy but was associated with maternal depression and anxiety. Maternal mental health may act as a pathway through which the maternal experience shapes programming of fetal stress systems. Maternal anxiety was associated with altered methylation profiles that were associated with increased infant bedtime cortisol. This study contributes to a growing literature of the mechanisms that link environment, experience, and health, and unpack biological mechanisms that are often neglected in anthropological research. Future studies can continue to elucidate these mechanisms by investigating the development of a range of physiological and behavioral outcomes.