Project Ice Storm

Ice Storm map

What is Project Ice Storm?

Project Ice Storm was designed to study the effects of in utero exposure to varying levels of prenatal maternal stress (PNMS), resulting from an independent stressor on the children's development from birth through childhood. In January 1998, the Quebec Ice Storm left millions of people without electricity for up to 40 days. In Project Ice Storm we were able to separate the "objective" stressors (days without power) from the "subjective" reactions (post-traumatic stress symptoms) and physiological reactions (cortisol over 24 hours), and maternal personality factors of 178 pregnant women exposed to the disaster. Child follow-ups at ages 6 months, and 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19 years show significant effects of objective and subjective PNMS on temperament, parent- and teacher-rated behaviour problems, motor development, physical development, and IQ, attention, and language development. The majority of these effects persist at our most recent assessments.

What is our goal?

The goal of the current study is to understand the long-term effects of the prenatal exposure to stress on the physical growth and functioning, cognitive development, and behaviour of the Project Ice Storm children by studying developmental trajectories through early adulthood.

Who is involved?

Nearly 100 families have continued to participate in Project Ice Storm. This study is composed of 4 assessment periods: i) Comprehensive home/school visits when the children are 5, 8, 11, 13, 15, and 17 years old to determine the long-term effects of PNMS on the children's physical, cognitive, and behavioural development; ii) Questionnaire survey of grade 3, 4 and 5 teachers to assess behavioural and attention problems at school at 8, 9 and 10 years of age; and iii) A postal questionnaire to obtain parental ratings of their children's behavioural and attention problems at home at 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19 years.

Next Steps

While we continue to analyses the rich data collected over the years there are no new assessments planned.