Maternal depression and child behaviour problems: a meta-analysis

J Adv Nurs. 1999 Mar;29(3):623-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1999.00943.x.


Children of depressed mothers are not only at risk for the development of psychopathology, but also for behaviour problems. A meta-analysis of 33 studies was conducted to determine the magnitude of the relationship between maternal depression and behaviour problems in children 1 year of age and older. Substantive, methodological, and miscellaneous variables were extracted and coded by both the researcher and a research assistant. The initial inter-rater agreement reached in coding these variables ranged from 85% to 100%. Effect sizes were calculated in three ways: unweighted, weighted by sample size, and weighted by quality index score. The mean effect size for the r index ranged from 0.29 when weighted by sample size to 0.35 when unweighted, indicating a moderate relationship between maternal depression and child behaviour problems. Children between the ages of 1-18 whose mothers were depressed displayed more conduct behaviour problems than children whose mothers were not depressed. The magnitude of this relationship covaried significantly with the predictors of sample size and quality index scores. Implications for future research are addressed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant