Mental health of children of low-income depressed mothers: Influences of parenting, family environment, and raters

Anne W. Riley, Mary Jo Coiro, Marina Broitman, Elizabeth Colantuoni, Kristen M. Hurley, Karen Bandeen-Roche, Jeanne Miranda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: This study examined the association of maternal depression with the emotional and behavioral problems and adaptive skills of four-to ten-year-old children as rated by their mothers, fathers, and teachers. Methods: Eighty-four mothers had major depressive disorder, and 49 did not. They were predominantly African American or Latino and lived in low-income, urban communities. Mothers, fathers, and teachers reported on children's emotional and behavioral problems and adaptive functioning. Parenting behavior and family stress were examined as potential mediators, and generalized estimating equations were used to test mediation and to account for discrepancies in reports by different raters. Results: According to the combined reports, children of mothers with depression had significantly poorer adaptive skills than children of sociodemographically similar mothers without depression; according to the reports of mothers and fathers, these children also had more emotional and behavioral problems. The quality of mothers' parenting mediated these associations, but measured family stressors did not. Conclusions: This study contributes to the scientific literature by demonstrating the effects of raters and testing mediators of maternal depression in low-income African-American and Latino families. It demonstrated that mothers, fathers, and teachers observed worse functioning among children of mothers with depression than without depression, although reporters' perspectives varied somewhat. The impact of maternal depression over and above that of poverty suggests the importance of developing and funding services to address the needs of affected families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-336
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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