The Association Between Exposure to Maternal Depression During Year 2 of a Child's Life and Future Child Problem Behavior


Objectives: We examined the association of exposure to maternal depression when a child is age 3 with future child problem behavior and investigated whether race/ethnicity is a moderator of this relationship. Methods: We used Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study data (age 3 N=3288 and 49% Black, 26% Hispanic, 22% non-Hispanic White; age 5 N=3001 and 51% Black, 25% Hispanic, 21% non-Hispanic White; age 9 N=3630 and 50% Black, 25% Hispanic, 21% non-Hispanic White) and ordinal logistic regression to model problem behavior at ages 3, 5, and 9 on maternal depression status at age 3. Results: At age 9, children whose mother was depressed when the child was age 3 were significantly more likely to have higher internalizing (AOR=1.92, 95% CI: 1.42,2.61) and externalizing (AOR=1.65, 95% CI: 1.10,2.48) problem behavior scores. Race/ethnicity did not have moderating effects, potentially due to a limitation of the data that required use of maternal self-reported race/ethnicity as a proxy for child race/ethnicity. Conclusions for Practice: Exposure to maternal depression after the prenatal and perinatal periods may have a negative association with children’s behavioral development through age 9. Interventions that directly target maternal depression during this time should be developed. Additional research is needed to further elucidate the role of race/ethnicity in the relationship between maternal depression and child problem behavior.

Maternal and Child Health Journal