Early maternal depressive symptoms and child growth trajectories: A longitudinal analysis of a nationally representative US birth cohort

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Background: Maternal depressive symptoms are negatively associated with early child growth in developing countries; however, few studies have examined this relation in developed countries or used a longitudinal design with data past the second year of the child's life. We investigated if and when early maternal depressive symptoms affect average growth in young children up to age 6 in a nationally representative sample of US children.Methods: Using data from 6,550 singleton births from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study -- Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), we fit growth trajectory models with random effects to examine the relation between maternal depressive symptoms at 9 months based on the twelve-item version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and child height and body mass index (BMI) to age 6 years.Results: Mothers with moderate/severe depressive symptoms at 9 months postpartum had children with shorter stature at this same point in time [average 0.26 cm shorter; 95% CI: 5 cm, 48 cm] than mothers without depressive symptoms; children whose mothers reported postpartum depressive symptoms remained significantly shorter throughout the child's first 6 years.Conclusions: Results suggest that the first year postpartum is a critical window for addressing maternal depressive symptoms in order to optimize child growth. Future studies should investigate the role of caregiving and feeding practices as potential mechanisms linking maternal depressive symptoms and child growth trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number185
JournalBMC Pediatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 21 2014



  • Body mass index
  • Child growth
  • Height
  • Longitudinal
  • Postpartum depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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