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Emerging evidence indicates that the predictability of signals early in life may influence the developing brain. This study examines links between a novel indicator of maternal mood dysregulation, mood entropy, and child neurodevelopmental outcomes. Associations between prenatal maternal mood entropy and child neurodevelopment were assessed in 2 longitudinal cohorts. Maternal mood was measured several times over pregnancy beginning as early as 15 weeks’ gestation. Shannon’s mood entropy was applied to distributions of mothers’ responses on mood questionnaires. Child cognitive and language development were evaluated at 2 and 6–9 years of age. Higher prenatal maternal mood entropy was associated with lower cognitive development scores at 2 years of age and lower expressive language scores at 6–9 years of age. These associations persisted after adjusting for maternal pre and postnatal mood levels and for other relevant sociodemographic factors. Our findings identify maternal mood entropy as a novel predictor of child neurodevelopment. Characterizing components of maternal mood in addition to level of severity or valence may further our understanding of specific processes by which maternal mood shapes child development.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Emotion, volume 21, in 2021 following peer review. This article may not exactly replicate the final published version. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at


American Psychological Association



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