Early life programming as a target for prevention of child and adolescent mental disorders

This paper concerns future policy development and programs of research for the prevention of mental disorders
based on research emerging from fetal and early life programming. The current review offers an overview of
findings on pregnancy exposures such as maternal mental health, lifestyle factors, and potential teratogenic and
neurotoxic exposures on child outcomes. Outcomes of interest are common child and adolescent mental disorders
including hyperactive, behavioral and emotional disorders. This literature suggests that the preconception and
perinatal periods offer important opportunities for the prevention of deleterious fetal exposures. As such, the
perinatal period is a critical period where future mental health prevention efforts should be focused and prevention
models developed. Interventions grounded in evidence-based recommendations for the perinatal period could take
the form of public health, universal and more targeted interventions. If successful, such interventions are likely to
have lifelong effects on (mental) health.

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