The authors investigated whether adversity in a female, before she conceives, will influence the affective and social behavior of her progeny. Virgin female rats were either undisturbed (controls) or exposed to varied, unpredictable, stressors for 7 days (preconceptual stress [PCS]) and then either mated immediately after the end of the stress (PCS0) or 2 weeks after the stress ended (PCS2). Their offspring were raised undisturbed until tested in adulthood. PCS offspring showed reduced social interaction; in the acoustic startle test, PCS males were less fearful, whereas PCS females were more fearful; in the shuttle task, PCS0 males avoided shock better; and in the elevated maze, PCS0 females were more active and anxious. The 2-week interval between stress and mating assuaged the effects on offspring activity and shock avoidance but not the changes in social behavior and fear in male and female offspring. Hence, PCS to the dam, even well before pregnancy, influences affective and social behavior in her adult offspring, depending on how long before conception it occurred, the behavior tested, and sex.
- female stress
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Life-span and Life-course Studies