Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability and Neurodevelopment (MAVAN): Youth mental health mental in the COVID pandemic

Wazana, Ashley | $149,974

Quebec Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic has resulted 1.4 million cases have been confirmed with 26,192 deaths in Canada, with Quebec and Ontario being hit the hardest. Preliminary analyses of a recent survey from four countries indicate that 53.2% of Canadian adults met criteria for PTSD. However, studies into the effects of the pandemic on child and adolescent mental health are limited even though it is believed that children and adolescents are at risk for mental health problems. While public health protocols have been effective in ‘flattening the curve’, social distancing and modifications enforced in the education system (hybrid teaching, full on-line teaching) have been extremely difficult for children and adolescents. Why certain youth develop COVID-related mental health problems while other appear resilient in the face of stress is not fully understood. Evidence points to unique aspects of gestation, the child’s biology, and the quality of the early environment. The Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability and Neurodevelopment (MAVAN) project is a prenatal cohort specifically designed to examine such questions and has found that the combination of early maternal adversity, genetics, and the early environment modify the risk for insecure attachment, negative temperament, childhood psychopathology, and the ability to remain hopeful and motivated in face of an adversity task (resilience). The main goal of the present study will be to determine how child, parental and environmental factors explain COVID-related stress and whether this stress moderates/mediates known relationships between maternal adversity and later psychopathology or resiliency in 8 to 18-year-olds. Specifically, we ask: i) How does COVID-related maternal and/or child stress combined with perinatal adversity and child genetics to predict current mental health functioning in youths; ii) Are there environmental factors (parental stress level) and child factors (early measures of resilience) which mediate this association?

With funding from the Government of Canada

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