Maternal self-esteem, exposure to lead, and child neurodevelopment

Pamela J. Surkan, Lourdes Schnaas, Rosalind J. Wright, Martha M. Téllez-Rojo, Héctor Lamadrid-Figueroa, Howard Hu, Mauricio Hernández-Avila, David C. Bellinger, Joel Schwartz, Estela Perroni, Robert O. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The notion that maternal personality characteristics influence cognitive development in their children has been grounded in stress moderation theory. Maternal personality traits, such as self-esteem, may buffer maternal stressors or lead to improved maternal-child interactions that directly impact neurodevelopment. This can be extended to suggest that maternal personality may serve to attenuate or exacerbate the effects of other neurotoxicants, although this has not been studied directly. We examined whether mothers' self-esteem had a direct or main effect on their children's cognitive outcomes. We also explored the modifying effects of maternal self-esteem on the association between exposure to lead and neurodevelopment in these children. Study participants included 379 mother-child pairs from Mexico City. Data included the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Scale in mothers, children's Bayley's Scale of Infant Development (BSID) scores, and sociodemographic information. Linear regression was used to model the relationship between maternal self-esteem and the Bayley's Mental Development Index (MDI) and Psychomotor Development Index (PDI) scores at age 24 months using models stratified by levels of maternal self-esteem. In adjusted models, each point increase in maternal self-esteem was associated with children having 0.2 higher score on the Bayley's MDI (p = 0.04). Similar results were observed using the PDI outcome. Moreover, there was evidence that maternal self-esteem attenuated the negative effects of lead exposure, although the interaction fell short of conventional levels of statistical significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-285
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Child
  • Cognition
  • Lead
  • Mother-child relations
  • Neurotoxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology


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