|dc.description.abstract||This study investigated the effect of prenatal exposure to stress from a natural disaster on long-term educational outcomes in the offspring of such pregnancies. The study hypothesized that offspring of mothers that experience an earthquake during their pregnancy would have poorer academic achievement in high school and college.
Previous research has linked prenatal stress to lower birth weight and lower gestational age at delivery (Norbeck & Tilden, 1983; Rondó et al., 2003; Sable & Wilkinson, 2000; Torche, 2011a) and prenatal stress caused by natural disasters has been related to lower educational outcomes and cognitive development (Charil et al., 2010; Fuller, 2014). However, these educational outcome investigations tend to have two weaknesses. The first group of research papers analyzes very small samples (Charil et al., 2010; King & Laplante, 2005; Weinstock, 2005), making it difficult to generalize results. Large population survey research using standardized test scores follows students for shorter periods of time (Fuller, 2014). Consequently, the test score results may have a low impact on students’ lives as small changes in these scores may have little educational or practical relevance. To ameliorate these weaknesses, this thesis uses larger sample sizes, following students over a longer period of time measuring consequential educational outcomes such as educational tests scores, high school GPAs and college graduation rates.
This study follows a cohort of Chilean students affected prenatally by the 1985 earthquake in central Chile and tracks their educational performance using three different measures: their performance on the national standardized Tests of the System of Quality Measurement in Education (SIMCE), the students’ high school GPAs, and their college graduation rates by age 32. These three measures investigate learning outcomes measured as the standardized tests scores and GPAs, and specifically focus on the effects of high school performance and the likelihood of college graduation, which is presumed to have long-lasting effects on earning ability and quality of life.
Students prenatally exposed to the earthquake were compared with students who were not affected by the earthquake. The results show that prenatally affected students had lower performance in some of the measured variables, with lower income students having the worst outcomes. This research generates evidence of long-term negative effects associated with prenatal stress.||