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Maternal depressive symptoms and children's academic performance: sex differences in the mediating role of school experiences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 December 2020

Marilyn N. Ahun
Affiliation:
Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université de Montréal, 7101 Avenue Parc, Montréal, Canada Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte-Justine, 3175 chemin de la Côte Sainte-Catherine, Montréal, Canada
Lamprini Psychogiou
Affiliation:
Mood Disorders Center, University of Exeter, Perry Road, Exeter, UK
Frédéric Guay
Affiliation:
Faculty of Educational Sciences, Université Laval, 2320 rue des Bibliothèques, Québec, Canada
Michel Boivin
Affiliation:
School of Psychology, Université Laval, 2325 rue des Bibliothèques, Québec, Canada Tomsk State University, 36 Lenin Avenue, Tomsk, Russia
Richard E. Tremblay
Affiliation:
University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland Department of Pediatrics, School of Psychology, Université de Montréal, 3175 chemin de la Côte Sainte-Catherine, Montréal, Canada
Sylvana M. Côté*
Affiliation:
Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université de Montréal, 7101 Avenue Parc, Montréal, Canada Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte-Justine, 3175 chemin de la Côte Sainte-Catherine, Montréal, Canada INSERM U1219, Université de Bordeaux, 146 rue Léo Saignat, Bordeaux, France
*
Author for correspondence: Sylvana M. Côté, E-mail: sylana.cote.1@umontreal.ca

Abstract

Background

Maternal depressive symptoms (MDSs) are negatively associated with children's academic performance, with stronger effects sometimes reported in boys. However, few studies have tested the mechanisms of this association. We examined the mediating role of school engagement and peer victimization in this association and tested for sex differences.

Methods

Participants were 1173 families from a population-based longitudinal Canadian study. MDSs were self-reported annually using the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (child's age: 5 months to 5 years). Data on mediators (peer victimization, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional school engagement) were reported annually from ages 6–10 by multiple informants including children, parents, and teachers using items from validated scales. Mathematics, reading, and writing exam scores at age 12 were obtained from standardized exams administered by Québec's Ministry of Education and Teaching. Structural equation modeling was used to test mediation by school experiences in boys and girls.

Results

Exposure to MDSs was negatively associated with mathematics, reading, and writing scores in girls and with mathematics only in boys. Cognitive and behavioral engagement significantly mediated the association between MDSs and mathematics, reading, and writing scores in girls. There were no significant mediators for boys.

Conclusions

Prevention and intervention strategies aiming to improve school engagement might be beneficial for daughters of mothers experiencing depressive symptoms. Further research is needed to replicate these findings and to identify the mechanisms explaining this association in boys.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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