Effects of poverty and maternal depression on early child development

Child Dev. 2001 Nov-Dec;72(6):1794-813. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00379.


Researchers have renewed an interest in the harmful consequences of poverty on child development. This study builds on this work by focusing on one mechanism that links material hardship to child outcomes, namely the mediating effect of maternal depression. Using data from the National Maternal and Infant Health Survey, we found that maternal depression and poverty jeopardized the development of very young boys and girls, and to a certain extent, affluence buffered the deleterious consequences of depression. Results also showed that chronic maternal depression had severe implications for both boys and girls, whereas persistent poverty had a strong effect for the development of girls. The measures of poverty and maternal depression used in this study generally had a greater impact on measures of cognitive development than motor development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Poverty*