How is the study progressing?

We have successfully recruited 909 mothers during pregnancy and we managed to follow up 742 families at least once from 8-12 weeks postpartum to 2 years of children’s age (BCHADS I). We plan to continue following-up the same families into later childhood and we successfully gained further funding to do so at age 5 and 7 years (BCHADS II).

We have completed the pregnancy phases of the study and the postnatal phases up to age 2 years. After each child was born we asked families to meet our researchers for data collection either at their home or at the NIMHANS Centre for Well Being, an urban community mental health centre or at the Anganwadi centres (community venue). They were invited to take part in the study on four occasions after birth up to 2 years (8-16 weeks, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years of child age). We also gathered information from a key alternative caregiver on three occasions (around 6 months, 1 and 2 years of age) where possible. Mothers and caregivers were asked to complete detailed interviews and questionnaires about their lives and the study child, and to let us observe and film them playing with the child. We assessed children’s behavioural, emotional and cognitive (mental) development and we collected samples of saliva for genetic analysis.

Gathering information from multiple people is important to reflect the reality in India where family members other than mothers are involved in the daily care of children, more often than in Western cultures. So we interview grandparents, aunts and uncles if they are actively involved in the care of the child according to the mother. Findings are also much stronger when based on reports from several people as children can behave differently with a different caregiver who, in turn, might take care of distinctive aspects of the family life. All these factors can affect children and it’s important to know how.

The timeline below briefly summarises the research plan of the study from the first trimester of pregnancy up to age 2 (BCHADS I).

 

 

We are now planning the next phases of the study at age 5 and 7 years, after successfully securing funding to do so. The research plan for future assessment is shown in the timeline below (BCHADS II)

Once again, we intend to gather information on quality of parenting through video-recorded observations, DNA for epigenetic analyses of key stress-response and immune-response related genes, child cortisol reactivity in response to a mild social-stressor, and cognitive, emotional and behavioural development through the use of standardised tasks and tests. We are also planning to involve teachers and ask them questions about children behaviours and emotions when children are attending school at age 7.

In preparation for the next assessments, we set up a brand-new family laboratory specially designed with children and family comfort in mind at the NIMHANS Centre for Well Being. This includes new assessment rooms, office space and a waiting area to welcome families (see News for more information and pictures) thanks to the NIMHANS administration and UOL alumni funding who provided the funding.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we are unable to meet families in person for the assessments during 2020, so we set up two telephone interview phases to keep in touch with them and to assess the impact of the pandemic on family life and child mental health in particular. During the telephonic interviews, we are asking mothers about and collecting data on how children and families have been impacted by the pandemic and how they have been coping.

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