1985 Study Abstract
In utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) was initially linked to vaginal-cervical cancer and subsequently to reproductive difficulties. These unanticipated and ongoing health risks to female offspring may constitute a chronic source of stress for DES mothers.
We interviewed 60 mothers of exposed daughters and 30 acquaintance controls.
Two hypotheses were tested in regard to DES mothers:
- DES discovery and its aftermath have a direct, long-term, negative effect on psychological health
- and the DES experience intensifies the negative psychological effects of other adverse life circumstances.
To operationalize psychological health, we measured symptoms of “demoralization” and positive health practices–the latter as a behavioral indicator of mastery and personal control. We also measured adversities that may mediate the threat posed by DES, including stressful events, medical problems, and chronic burdens.
We found DES history to be associated with poorer psychological health only when mothers encountered other losses and threats to themselves and their families. We concluded that DES mothers may manifest increased vulnerability to subsequent stresses in their lives.
Sources and more information
- Vulnerability to stress among women with in utero diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposed daughters, Journal of human stress, NCBI PMID: 3855173, 1985.
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