Associations between maternal mental health and child emotional and behavioral problems: Does prenatal mental health matter?

Julie A. Leis, Jon Heron, Elizabeth A. Stuart, Tamar Mendelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This study examined associations between elevated symptoms of prenatal depression or anxiety and offspring emotional and behavioral problems during mid to late childhood taking into account the impact of later maternal mental health symptoms. The sample consisted of 2,891 women and their children (49 % male) from a prospective, community-based study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Women completed measures of depressive (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) and anxious (Crown Crisp Experiential Index) symptoms at regular intervals beginning in pregnancy. Mothers and teachers assessed offspring emotional and behavioral problems using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire when children were 10-11 years old. Multivariable regression models were fit to address study hypotheses. Exposure to elevated symptoms of maternal depression during pregnancy was associated with increased total offspring emotional and behavioral problems, even after controlling for later maternal mental health problems and a range of sociodemographic and psychosocial characteristics, according to mothers' but not teachers' reports. Similarly, children exposed to elevated symptoms of maternal anxiety during pregnancy were reported to have increased total emotional and behavioral problems by mothers but not by teachers. We found support for modest associations between elevated symptoms of maternal depression and anxiety during the prenatal period and certain domains of offspring emotional and behavioral problems in mid to late childhood above and beyond the impact of later maternal mental health problems. These findings highlight the need for additional clinical and research attention to the prenatal period and to both maternal depression and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-171
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume42
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

Keywords

  • ALSPAC
  • Emotional and behavioral problems
  • Prenatal anxiety
  • Prenatal depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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