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This study investigated the associations between maternal depression when infants were 3 to 11 months old (M = 6 months), and positive parenting behaviors when children were between 12 and 22 months (M = 17 months) and the home language environment assessed when children were 18 to 28 months old (M = 23.5 months) in a sample of 29 low-income mother–child dyads. After controlling for maternal education, only teaching behaviors remained a moderate and significant predictor of adult word counts. Observed teaching behaviors significantly predicted conversational turns and marginally predicted child vocalizations; effects sizes were small. Encouraging behaviors were a small and significant predictor of conversational turns and a marginally significant predictor of adult word counts. Maternal depression was a moderate and significant predictor of children's vocal productivity scores and a small, marginal predictor of conversational turns. These findings have important implications for parenting and children's language outcomes.
Several research teams have previously traced patterns of emerging conduct problems (CP) from early or middle childhood. The current study expands on this previous literature by using a genetically-informed, experimental, and long-term longitudinal design to examine trajectories of early-emerging conduct problems and early childhood discriminators of such patterns from the toddler period to adolescence. The sample represents a cohort of 731 toddlers and diverse families recruited based on socioeconomic, child, and family risk, varying in urbanicity and assessed on nine occasions between ages 2 and 14. In addition to examining child, family, and community level discriminators of patterns of emerging conduct problems, we were able to account for genetic susceptibility using polygenic scores and the study's experimental design to determine whether random assignment to the Family Check-Up (FCU) discriminated trajectory groups. In addition, in accord with differential susceptibility theory, we tested whether the effects of the FCU were stronger for those children with higher genetic susceptibility. Results augmented previous findings documenting the influence of child (inhibitory control [IC], gender) and family (harsh parenting, parental depression, and educational attainment) risk. In addition, children in the FCU were overrepresented in the persistent low versus persistent high CP group, but such direct effects were qualified by an interaction between the intervention and genetic susceptibility that was consistent with differential susceptibility. Implications are discussed for early identification and specifically, prevention efforts addressing early child and family risk.
Children vary in the extent to which they benefit from parenting programs for conduct problems. How does parental mental health change if children benefit less or more? We assessed whether changes in conduct problems and maternal depressive symptoms co-occur following participation in the Incredible Years parenting program. We integrated individual participant data from 10 randomized trials (N = 1280; children aged 2–10 years) and distinguished latent classes based on families' baseline and post-test conduct problems and maternal depressive symptoms, using repeated measures latent class analysis (RMLCA) and latent transition analysis (LTA). Classes differed mainly in severity of conduct problems and depression (RMLCA; 4 classes). Conduct problems reduced in all classes. Depressive symptoms did not change in most classes, except in a class of families where conduct problems and depression were particularly severe. Incredible Years led to a greater likelihood of families with particularly severe conduct problems and depression moving to a class with mild problems (LTA; 3 classes). Our findings suggest that for the majority of families, children's conduct problems reduce, but maternal depressive symptoms do not, suggesting relative independence, with the exception of families with severe depression and severe conduct problems where changes for the better do co-occur.
We examined maternal depression and maternal sensitivity as mediators of the association between maternal childhood adversity and her child's temperament in 239 mother–child dyads from a longitudinal, birth cohort study. We used an integrated measure of maternal childhood adversity that included the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and the Parental Bonding Index. Maternal depression was assessed with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale at 6 months postpartum. Maternal sensitivity was assessed with the Ainsworth maternal sensitivity scales at 6 months. A measure of “negative emotionality/behavioral dysregulation” was derived from the Early Childhood Behaviour Questionnaire administered at 36 months. Bootstrapping-based mediation analyses revealed that maternal depression mediated the effect of maternal childhood adversity on offspring negative emotionality/behavioral dysregulation (95% confidence interval [0.026, 0.144]). We also found a serial, indirect effect of maternal childhood adversity on child negative emotionality/behavioral mediated first by maternal depression and then by maternal sensitivity (95% confidence interval [0.031, 0.156]). Results suggest the intergenerational transmission of the effects of maternal childhood adversity to the offspring occurs through a two-step, serial pathway, involving maternal depression and maternal sensitivity.
Although there is considerable support for the influence of maternal attachment on children's development (see Gerhardt, 2015), this is one of the first studies to examine the effects of maternal prenatal reports of attachment representations with close others on reports of infants’ health. Mothers (N = 483) completed surveys to assess attachment and depression in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, infants’ health over the first 6 months, and depression and infant temperament when infants were 6 months old. We found that insecure mothers, as compared to secure mothers, were more likely to report that their infants experienced colic and illnesses associated with immune, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. It may be that secure mothers experience less anxiety associated with parenting and, as expected, were consistently found to report lower levels of infant illness symptoms. Alternatively, secure mothers would be expected to provide more consistent and responsive care compared to insecure mothers, which may also influence their infants’ physical health (see also Gerhardt, 2015). Future research needs to further explore this finding — do secure mothers simply perceive their infants to be healthier due to their own low anxiety or are infants of secure mothers healthier due to consistent and responsive care received?
The current study examined trajectories of maternal and paternal depression in the year following the birth of an infant sibling, and relations with family risk factors and firstborn children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Latent class growth analysis was conducted on 231 families in a longitudinal investigation (prebirth and 1, 4, 8, and 12 months postbirth) and revealed four classes of families: both mother and father low in depressive symptoms (40.7%); mother high–father low (25.1%); father high–mother low (24.7%), and both mother and father high (9.5%). Families with both mothers and fathers high on depressive symptoms were higher on marital negativity, parenting stress, and children's internalizing and externalizing problems, and lower on marital positivity and parental efficacy than other classes. Children, parents, and marital relationships were more problematic in families with fathers higher on depressive symptoms than in families in which mothers were higher, indicating the significant role of paternal support for firstborn children undergoing the transition to siblinghood. Maternal and paternal depression covaried with an accumulation of family risks over time, no doubt increasing the likelihood of children's problematic adjustment after the birth of their infant sibling.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) of parents are associated with a variety of negative health outcomes in offspring. Little is known about the mechanisms by which ACEs are transmitted to the next generation. Given that maternal depression and anxiety are related to ACEs and negatively affect children’s behaviour, these exposures may be pathways between maternal ACEs and child psychopathology. Child sex may modify these associations. Our objectives were to determine: (1) the association between ACEs and children’s behaviour, (2) whether maternal symptoms of prenatal and postnatal depression and anxiety mediate the relationship between maternal ACEs and children’s behaviour, and (3) whether these relationships are moderated by child sex. Pearson correlations and latent path analyses were undertaken using data from 907 children and their mothers enrolled the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition study. Overall, maternal ACEs were associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression during the perinatal period, and externalizing problems in children. Furthermore, we observed indirect associations between maternal ACEs and children’s internalizing and externalizing problems via maternal anxiety and depression. Sex differences were observed, with boys demonstrating greater vulnerability to the indirect effects of maternal ACEs via both anxiety and depression. Findings suggest that maternal mental health may be a mechanism by which maternal early life adversity is transmitted to children, especially boys. Further research is needed to determine if targeted interventions with women who have both high ACEs and mental health problems can prevent or ameliorate the effects of ACEs on children’s behavioural psychopathology.
The effectiveness of salt iodisation in improving the mental development of young children has not been assessed. We implemented a community-based cluster-randomised effectiveness trial in sixty randomly selected districts in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. We randomly allocated each district to treatment and randomly selected one of its villages. In parallel to national salt iodisation efforts, iodised salt was brought early into the markets of the thirty intervention villages before it became widely available in the thirty control villages 4–6 months later. The primary outcome was children’s mental development scores on the Bayley Scales. This was an intention-to-treat analysis using mixed linear models adjusted for covariates and clusters. The trial was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT013496. We assessed 1835 infants aged 5–11 months at baseline. The same children (85 % of the sample) were re-assessed at 20–29 months when all villages had iodised salt. At endline, urinary iodine concentration was higher in children in the intervention group compared with those in the control group (median 228·0 v. 155·1 µg/l, P=0·001). The intervention group had higher scores compared with the control group on the Bayley composite score (raw scores:130·60 v. 128·51; standardised scores: 27·8 v. 26·9; d=0·13; 95 % CI 0·02, 0·23) and three of the four subscales: cognitive (53·27 v. 52·54, d=0·13; 95 % CI 0·03, 0·23), receptive language (20·71 v. 20·18, d=0·13; 95 % CI 0·03, 0·24) and fine motor (35·45 v. 34·94, d=0·15; 95 % CI 0·04, 0·25). The introduction of iodised salt contributes to children’s higher urinary iodine concentration and mental development.
Background: Self-report instruments are commonly used to assess for childhood depressive symptoms. Historically, clinicians have relied heavily on parent-reports due to concerns about childrens’ cognitive abilities to understand diagnostic questions. However, parents may also be unreliable reporters due to a lack of understanding of their child's symptomatology, overshadowing by their own problems, and tendencies to promote themselves more favourably in order to achieve desired assessment goals. One such variable that can lead to unreliable reporting is impression management, which is a goal-directed response in which an individual (e.g. mother or father) attempts to represent themselves, or their child, in a socially desirable way to the observer. Aims: This study examined the relationship between mothers who engage in impression management, as measured by the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form defensive responding subscale, and parent-/child-self-reports of depressive symptomatology in 106 mother–child dyads. Methods: 106 clinic-referred children (mean child age = 10.06 years, range 7–16 years) were administered the Child Depression Inventory, and mothers (mean mother age = 40.80 years, range 27–57 years) were administered the Child-Behavior Checklist, Parenting Stress Index-Short Form, and Symptom Checklist-90-Revised. Results: As predicted, mothers who engaged in impression management under-reported their child's symptomatology on the anxious/depressed and withdrawn subscales of the Child Behavior Checklist. Moreover, the relationship between maternal-reported child depressive symptoms and child-reported depressive symptoms was moderated by impression management. Conclusions: These results suggest that children may be more reliable reporters of their own depressive symptomatology when mothers are highly defensive or stressed.
Child maltreatment is a significant public health issue in the United States. Yet, fewer than half of pediatricians discuss behavioral, developmental, or parenting issues with parents.
This paper describes the testing of bundles of tools and processes, part of a larger intervention, Practicing Safety, targeted at changing physician and staff behavior to identify families at risk for child maltreatment, provide anticipatory guidance, refer to community resources, and follow-up and track at-risk families. The intervention was implemented with 14 pediatric primary care practices throughout the United States; the study was completed in 2011.
A within-subjects repeated measures pre-post follow-up design was used to evaluate the intervention. Baseline and repeated measurements of pediatric practices’ processes were collected using qualitative and quantitative methods. In total, 14 core improvement teams from across the country tested three bundles of tools (maternal, infant, toddler) within a quality improvement framework over seven months.
Quantitative results showed statistically significant adoption of tools and processes and enhancement of practice behaviors and office environmental supports. The increase in tool use was immediate and was sustained for six months after implementation. Qualitative data provided insight as to how meaningful the intervention was to the core improvement teams, especially with more complicated behaviors (eg, engaging social workers or community agencies for referrals). Barriers included lack of community resources. Findings showed unanticipated outcomes such as helping practices to become medical homes.
Lessons learned included that practices appreciate and can adopt brief interventions that have meaningful and useful tools and process to enhance psychosocial care for children 0–3 and that do not place a burden on pediatric practice. An innovative, quality improvement strategy, intuitive to pediatricians, with a brief intervention may help prevent child maltreatment.
Maternal depression may affect the emotional/behavioural outcomes of children with normal neurocognitive functioning less severely than it does those without. To guide prevention and intervention efforts, research must specify which aspects of a child's cognitive functioning both moderate the effect of maternal depression and are amenable to change. Working memory and decision making may be amenable to change and are so far unexplored as moderators of this effect.
Our sample was 17 160 Millennium Cohort Study children. We analysed trajectories of externalizing (conduct and hyperactivity) and internalizing (emotional and peer) problems, measured with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire at the ages 3, 5, 7 and 11 years, using growth curve models. We characterized maternal depression, also time-varying at these ages, by a high score on the K6. Working memory was measured with the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery Spatial Working Memory Task, and decision making (risk taking and quality of decision making) with the Cambridge Gambling Task, both at age 11 years.
Maternal depression predicted both the level and the growth of problems. Risk taking and poor-quality decision making were related positively to externalizing and non-significantly to internalizing problems. Poor working memory was related to both problem types. Neither decision making nor working memory explained the effect of maternal depression on child internalizing/externalizing problems. Importantly, risk taking amplified the effect of maternal depression on internalizing problems, and poor working memory that on internalizing and conduct problems.
Impaired decision making and working memory in children amplify the adverse effect of maternal depression on, particularly, internalizing problems.
Even though mental disorders represent a major public health problem for women and respective children, there remains a lack of epidemiological longitudinal studies to assess the psychological status of women throughout pregnancy and later in life. This epidemiological cohort study assessed the relationship between mental disorders of 409 Brazilian women in pregnancy and 5–8 years after delivery.
The women were followed from 1997 to 2000 at 17 health services, and subsequently from 2004 to 2006 at their homes. Mental disorders were investigated by the Perceived Stress Scale-PSS, General Health Questionnaire-GHQ and State-Trait Anxiety Inventories-STAI. The relationship between scores of the PSS, GHQ and STAI 5–8 years after delivery and in pregnancy was assessed by multivariate linear regression analysis, controlling for the following confounders: maternal age, education, per capita income, family size, work, marital status and body mass index.
Scores of the PSS, GHQ and STAI 5–8 years after delivery were positively associated with scores of the PSS, GHQ and STAI in the three trimesters of pregnancy, and inversely associated with maternal age and per capita income (adj. R2 varied from 0.15 to 0.37). PSS, GHQ and STAI scores in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy were positively associated with scores of the PSS, GHQ and STAI in the 1st and 2nd trimesters of pregnancy (adj. R2 varied from 0.31 to 0.65).
The results of this study reinforce the urgency to integrate mental health screening into routine primary care for pregnant and postpartum women.
Sleep problems are associated with increased risk of physical and mental illness. Identifying risk factors is an important method of reducing public health impact. We examined the association between maternal postnatal depression (PND) and offspring adolescent sleep problems.
The sample was derived from Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) participants. A sample with complete data across all variables was used, with four outcome variables. A sensitivity analysis imputing for missing data was conducted (n = 9633).
PND was associated with increased risk of sleep problems in offspring at ages 16 and 18 years. The most robust effects were sleep problems at 18 years [adjusted odds ratio (OR) for a 1 s.d. increase in PND, 1.26, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.15–1.39, p < 0.001] and waking more often (adjusted OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.05–1.25, p = 0.003). This remained after controlling for confounding variables including antenatal depression and early sleep problems in infancy.
PND is associated with adolescent offspring sleep problems. Maternal interventions should consider the child's increased risk. Early sleep screening and interventions could be introduced within this group.
It is well-established that offspring of depressed mothers are at increased risk for suicidal ideation. However, pathways involved in the transmission of risk for suicidal ideation from depressed mothers to offspring are poorly understood. The aim of this study was to examine the contribution of potential mediators of this association, including maternal suicide attempt, offspring psychiatric disorder and the parent–child relationship.
Data were utilized from a population-based birth cohort (ALSPAC). Three distinct classes of maternal depression symptoms across the first 11 years of the child's life had already been identified (minimal, moderate, chronic-severe). Offspring suicidal ideation was assessed at age 16 years. Data were analysed using structural equation modelling.
There was evidence for increased risk of suicidal ideation in offspring of mothers with chronic-severe depression symptoms compared to offspring of mothers with minimal symptoms (odds ratio 3.04, 95% confidence interval 2.19–4.21). The majority of this association was explained through maternal suicide attempt and offspring psychiatric disorder. There was also evidence for an independent indirect effect via the parent–child relationship in middle childhood. There was no longer evidence of a direct effect of maternal depression on offspring suicidal ideation after accounting for all three mediators. The pattern of results was similar when examining mechanisms for maternal moderate depression symptoms.
Findings highlight that suicide prevention efforts in offspring of depressed mothers should be particularly targeted at both offspring with a psychiatric disorder and offspring whose mothers have made a suicide attempt. Interventions aimed at improving the parent–child relationship may also be beneficial.
Maternal depression in the pre- and postpartum period may set women on a course of chronic depressive symptoms. Little is known about predictors of persistently elevated depressive symptoms in mothers from pregnancy onwards. The aims of this study are to determine maternal depression trajectories from pregnancy to the child's fifth birthday and identify associated risk factors.
Mothers (N = 1807) from the EDEN mother–child birth cohort study based in France (2003–2011) were followed from 24–28 weeks of pregnancy to their child's fifth birthday. Maternal depression trajectories were determined with a semi-parametric group-based modelling strategy. Sociodemographic, psychosocial and psychiatric predictors were explored for their association with trajectory class membership.
Five trajectories of maternal symptoms of depression from pregnancy onwards were identified: no symptoms (60.2%); persistent intermediate-level depressive symptoms (25.2%); persistent high depressive symptoms (5.0%); high symptoms in pregnancy only (4.7%); high symptoms in the child's preschool period only (4.9%). Socio-demographic predictors associated with persistent depression were non-French origin; psychosocial predictors were childhood adversities, life events during pregnancy and work overinvestment; psychiatric predictors were previous mental health problems, psychological help, and high anxiety during pregnancy.
Persistent depression in mothers of young children is associated to several risk factors present prior to or during pregnancy, notably anxiety. These characteristics precede depression trajectories and offer a possible entry point to enhance mother's mental health and reduce its burden on children.
Against the background of rising rates of obesity in children and adults in the USA, and modest effect sizes for obesity interventions, the aim of the present narrative review paper is to extend the UNICEF care model to focus on childhood obesity and its associated risks with an emphasis on the emotional climate of the parent–child relationship within the family. Specifically, we extended the UNICEF model by applying the systems approach to childhood obesity and by combining previously unintegrated sets of literature across multiple disciplines including developmental psychology, clinical psychology and nutrition. Specifically, we modified the extended care model by explicitly integrating new linkages (i.e. parental feeding styles, stress, depression and mother's own eating behaviour) that have been found to be associated with the development of children's eating behaviours and risk of childhood obesity. These new linkages are based on studies that were not incorporated into the original UNICEF model, but suggest important implications for childhood obesity. In all, this narrative review offers important advancements to the scientific understanding of familial influences on children's eating behaviours and childhood obesity.
Maternal depression and unhealthy diet are well-known risk factors for adverse child emotional–behavioural outcomes, but their developmental relationships during the prenatal and postnatal periods are largely uncharted. This study sought to examine the inter-relationships between maternal depression symptoms and unhealthy diet (assessed during pregnancy and postnatal periods) in relation to child emotional–behavioural dysregulation (assessed at the ages of 2, 4 and 7 years).
In a large prospective birth cohort of 7814 mother–child pairs, path analysis was used to examine the independent and inter-related associations of maternal depression symptoms and unhealthy diet with child dysregulation.
Higher prenatal maternal depression symptoms were prospectively associated with higher unhealthy diet, both during pregnancy and the postnatal period, which, in turn, was associated with higher child dysregulation up to the age of 7 years. In addition, during pregnancy, higher maternal depression symptoms and unhealthy diet were each independently associated with higher child dysregulation up to the age of 7 years. These results were robust to other prenatal, perinatal and postnatal confounders (such as parity and birth complications, poverty, maternal education, etc.).
Maternal depression symptoms and unhealthy diet show important developmental associations, but are also independent risk factors for abnormal child development.
A possible link between prenatal exposure to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and development of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), previously suggested by two case-control studies, was not confirmed by a recent cohort study that followed for 5–10 years more than 600,000 births. However, this study failed to demonstrate that SSRI exposure during pregnancy is safe in terms of child development outcomes, as an increased risk of ASDs cannot be completely ruled out. In the present article, the main strengths and weaknesses of this study are briefly analysed, including a possibility of confounding by indication.
Maternal stress during pregnancy has pervasive effects on stress responsivity in children. This study is the first to test the hypothesis that maternal prenatal depression, as observed in South India, may be associated with how foetuses respond to a potentially stressful stimulus. We employed measures of foetal heart rate at baseline, during exposure to a vibroacoustic stimulus, and post-stimulation, to study patterns of response and recovery in 133 third trimester foetuses of depressed and non-depressed mothers. We show that the association between maternal depression and foetal stress responsivity is U-shaped with foetuses of mothers with high and low depression scores demonstrating elevated responses, and poorer recovery, than foetuses of mothers with moderate levels. The right amount of intra-uterine stimulation is important in conditioning foetuses towards optimal regulation of their stress response. Our results imply that, in certain environmental contexts, exposure to moderate amounts of intra-uterine stress may facilitate this process.
The high rate of depression among children of depressed mothers is well known. Suggestions that improvement in maternal acute depression has a positive effect on the child have emerged. However, data on the mechanisms of change have been sparse. The aim was to understand how remission and relapse in the mother might explain the changes in the child's outcome.
Participants were 76 depressed mothers who entered into a medication clinical trial for depression and 135 of their eligible offspring ages 7–17 years. The mothers and children were assessed at baseline and periodically over 9 months by independent teams to understand the relationship between changes in children's symptoms and functioning and maternal remission or relapse. The main outcome measures were, for mothers, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD), the Social Adjustment Scale (SAS) and the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) and, for children, the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI), the Columbia Impairment Scale (CIS), the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC) and the Children's Global Assessment Scale (CGAS).
Maternal remission was associated with a decrease in the child's depressive symptoms. The mother's subsequent relapse was associated with an increase in the child's symptoms over 9 months. The effect of maternal remission on the child's improvement was partially explained by an improvement in the mother's parenting, particularly the change in the mother's ability to listen and talk to her child, but also reflected in her improvement in parental bonding. These findings could not be explained by the child's treatment.
A depressed mother's remission is associated with her improvement in parenting and a decrease in her child's symptoms. Her relapse is associated with an increase in her child's symptoms.