Trajectories of maternal depression over seven years: relations with child psychophysiology and behavior
Maternal depression is associated with increased risk for child emotional and behavior problems as well as atypical child psychophysiology, including relative right frontal brain activation, elevated heart rate, low vagal tone, and elevated stress hormone levels. The mechanisms through which children develop a vulnerability to behavior problems remain unclear. Chronicity and severity of maternal depression as well as the presence of other risk factors in the social environment, such as marital conflict, have been found to predict more adverse child outcomes. This study explored the relation between the longitudinal course of maternal depression during the child's early life (birth--6 years) and children's psychophysiology and behavior at age 61/2 years. One-hundred fifty-nine children of depressed and non-depressed mothers were followed from infancy through age 61/2 years. Growth mixture modeling was used to identify classes of depressed mothers based on the longitudinal course of the mother's depression. Three classes were identified: mothers with stable low depression, mothers with initial moderate to high followed by decreasing depression, and mothers with chronic moderate to high depression. Six and one half year old children of chronically depressed mothers were found to have elevated externalizing behavior problems, decreased social competence, reduced frontal brain activation (higher EEG alpha power), and higher respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity. Children of mothers with decreasing and stable low depression were found to have increased hyperactivity and attention problems compared to children of non-depressed mothers. Contextual risk factors, such as family conflict and stressful life events, were found to mediate the relation between maternal depression and child behavioral outcomes.
- Psychology