Maternal Depression Predicts Behavior Problems in Children

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- Children of mothers with chronic depression are almost four times as likely to have multiple behavior problems at the age of 3 years as are children of mothers without depression, according to a poster presentation by Dr. Diane L. Langkamp at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

In addition, both maternal smoking and the lack of health insurance for the child significantly increased the odds of multiple child-behavior problems, wrote Dr. Langkamp and her coinvestigators from the Ohio State University in Columbus.

The investigators of the current study analyzed the results of the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey--a nationally representative, weighted sample of 9,953 children who were born in the United States that year--and also analyzed a 1991 follow-up to that survey with the same mothers.

When the mothers were first interviewed, their children's ages averaged 17 months; at the follow-up the children's ages averaged 35 months.

At each interview, the original investigators administered the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Scores greater than 15 on that scale are associated with substantial symptoms of clinical depression.

Among the women surveyed, those whose scores were greater than 15 during both interviews were judged to have chronic depression for the purposes of the study. They were compared with women whose scores were 15 or less during both interviews.

At the 1991 follow-up, mothers were asked about the degree or frequency of several types of child behavior or emotional state, such as exhibiting behaviors that were difficult for the mother to manage, the frequency of temper tantrums, and fearfulness.

After adjusting for the mother's smoking status, the child's health insurance status, and maternal race, the odds of multiple behavior problems for children of mothers with chronic depression were 3. …