"This study shows that the combination of physical and psychosocial stressors during fetal development magnifies the effect of each exposure," said lead author Frederica Perera, director of the Center.
"The findings are of concern because attention problems and anxiety and depression have been shown to affect peer relationships, academic performance and future well-being of children."
Nearly 248 women and their children were observed from pregnancy through age nine.
Researchers found that higher levels of exposure to pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) along with maternal psychological distress can cause behavioral issues such as depression, anxiety, attention problems, and aggressive behavior.
"The findings support policy interventions to reduce air pollution exposure in urban areas as well as programs to screen women early in pregnancy to identify those in need of psychological or material support," Dr. Perera said.