Date of Award


Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



Objective: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are one of the most widely used prescribed medicine by pregnant women. A mixed literature suggests that prenatal SSRI exposure may increase depression risk among offspring. Method: Using data from children (n=11,076) who completed the baseline session of the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, we examined whether prenatal exposure to SSRIs is associated with child depression and variability in depression-related brain structures (i.e., hippocampus, amygdala, nucleus accumbens, caudate, putamen; rostral anterior cingulate; rostral and caudal middle frontal, superior frontal, and lateral and medical orbitofrontal cortices). Analyses were cross-sectional and included the following covariates: sex, race, ethnicity, age, birthweight, household income, maternal education, whether pregnancy was planned, gestational age when mother aware of pregnancy, prenatal exposure to prenatal vitamins, tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol. Lifetime maternal depression was included when not the independent variable of interest, and intracranial volume was included for brain structure analyses. Results: Prenatal SSRI exposure and maternal depression were each independently associated with depressive symptoms among children. No gray matter-based imaging metrics were associated with SSRI exposure following correction for multiple testing. SSRI exposure was nominally associated with reduced caudate, amygdala, and hippocampal volumes (all ps <0.045). Conclusion: We find evidence that prenatal SSRI exposure is associated with elevated depressive symptoms among children, even after accounting for lifetime maternal depression. Imaging derived metrics of gray matter (i.e., subcortical volume, cortical thickness of brain regions associated with depression) may not play a mechanistic role in prenatal SSRI exposure-related offspring depression risk.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Ryan Bogdan

Committee Members

Deanna Barch, Thomas Oltmanns


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Psychology Commons