Maternal anxiety and depression, poverty and marital relationship factors during early childhood as predictors of anxiety and depressive symptoms in adolescence

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2002 May;43(4):457-69. doi: 10.1111/1469-7610.00037.


Background: This paper examines the degree to which symptoms of anxiety and depression at age 14 years are associated with early childhood experience of maternal anxiety and depression, poverty, and mother's marital relationship distress and break-up.

Methods: In a longitudinal study, 4434 families were followed-up from infancy to adolescence.

Results: Maternal anxiety and depression during early childhood were found to have small, but significant, influences upon the development of high anxiety-depression symptoms at age 14, after controlling for the effects of poverty and marital relationship factors. This effect was greater with repeated exposure to high maternal anxiety and depression. Poverty, distressed marital relationship and marital break-up during the child's first five years also produced small, but significant, increases in risk of high anxiety and depression symptoms in adolescence. Stable, single-parent status was not found to be a risk factor. There was no evidence of marked gender differences in risk factors, other than poverty, which had a stronger impact for girls than boys.

Conclusions: Overall, the results suggest that maternal anxiety and depression, poverty, parent relationship conflict and marital break-up during early childhood are associated with small, but significant, increased risk of anxiety-depression symptoms in adolescence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Divorce / psychology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Poverty*
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors