BACKGROUND: Disentangling the effects of maternal depression in toddlerhood from concurrent maternal depression on child behavior is difficult from previous research. Child care may modify any effects of maternal depression on subsequent child behavior, but this has not been widely investigated.
METHODS: We examined the influence of maternal depressive symptoms during toddlerhood on children's behavior at the age of 5 years and investigated if formal or informal child care during toddlerhood modified any relationship observed.
RESULTS: Data were available from 438 mothers and their children (227 girls and 211 boys); the mothers who completed questionnaires during the children's infancy, in toddlerhood, and at the age of 5 years. Recurrent maternal depressive symptoms in toddlerhood (when study children were aged 2 and 3½ years) was a significant risk factor for internalizing, externalizing, and total behavior problems when children were aged 5 years. Intermittent maternal depressive symptoms (study child age 2 or 3½ years) did not significantly affect child behavior problems. Formal child care at the age of 2 years modified the effect of recurrent maternal depressive symptoms on total behavior problems at age 5 years. Informal child care in toddlerhood did not significantly affect child behavior problems.
CONCLUSIONS: Recurrent, but not intermittent, maternal depressive symptoms when children were toddlers were associated with child behavior problems at age 5 years. As little as half a day in formal child care at the age of 2 years significantly modified the effect of recurrent maternal depressive symptoms on total behavior problems. Formal child care for toddlers of depressed mothers may have positive benefits for the child's subsequent behavior.
- behavior disorders and problems
- Child Behavior Checklist
- maternal mental health
- mother-child relations
- child care
- Accepted March 3, 2011.
- Copyright © 2011 by the American Academy of Pediatrics