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Table 1 Developmental and psychopathological impact of environmental exposures over different life stages

From: Consortium on Vulnerability to Externalizing Disorders and Addictions (cVEDA): A developmental cohort study protocol

Life stageExposureDevelopmental impactImpact on mental morbidity
FetusMaternal mal-nutritionEarly brain development, including key serotonergic and dopaminergic signalling systemsExternalizing problems in early childhood [21]
Intra-uterine growth retardation/Low birth weightDevelopmental programming of physiological systemsWide range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural outcomes [22]
Maternal substance useLater growth and development including trans-generational effects [23]Wide range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural outcomes
Psychosocial stress during pregnancy/ maternal depression & anxiety Behavioural disturbances in later childhood [24]
Environmental pollutants – toluene in traffic smoke, organophosphates in pesticidesDevelopmental neurotoxicity; Neuroimaging evidence of structural abnormalitiesCognitive deficits [25, 26]
Early childhoodPollutants, environmental toxins – polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in biomass fuels, tobacco smoke, arsenic in ground water, fluoride, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls from insulators in electrical equipment, phthalates from plastics and cosmeticsInjury to the developing human brain either through direct toxicity or interactions with the genome [27]Low verbal IQ [29]; Cognitive deficits among preschool-age children [30]; behavioral abnormalities [31]
Neurotoxicity with effects persistent throughout life [28]
Absence of primary attachment figure/poor parentingDeficits in cognitive and socio-emotional development [32]Indiscriminate friendliness, poor peer relationships [33]
Under-nutritionSynaptic pruning, Myelination, Executive functioning [34, 35]Risk of emotional and behavioural problems [36]; High prevalence of health-harming behaviours [37]
Childhood & adolescencePoverty/deprived neighbourhoodsVia parental psychopathology, less positive parenting, neglect, poor monitoring [38]Higher prevalence of SUDs [39]; various negative behavioural outcomes [40]; Conduct problems [41]
Exposure to war and conflict Range of psychopathology, including post-traumatic stress disorder [42]
High conflict home environment (parental marital conflict, parental divorce) Disruptive behaviours [43]
Harsh parenting, physical abuse Disruptive and emotional psychopathology [44]
Deviant peer relationshipsBehavioural reinforcement, exchange of techniquesDelinquentbehaviours [45]
AdolescenceSubstance useInterferes with brain maturation especially in areas affecting self-regulation and controlSubstance use disorders and global difficulties in adult functioning [46]