The effect of postpartum depression on child cognitive development and behavior: a review and critical analysis of the literature

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2003 Nov;6(4):263-74. doi: 10.1007/s00737-003-0024-6.


The incidence of postpartum depression (PPD) in Western societies is approximately 10-15% and its cause multi-faceted. Because mothers largely constitute infants' social environment and mediate their experience of the external world, it is imperative to investigate the effects of PPD on child growth and development. PsycInfo, Medline, Embase, CINAHL, ProQuest, and Health Star databases were searched with key terms for English language abstracts from 1990 onwards, and key contents were searched. There are small effects of PPD on cognitive development such as language and IQ, seen particularly among boys. Behavioral effects are variably supported, but may persist up to 5 years postpartum and beyond. However, chronic or recurrent maternal depression, rather than postpartum depression per se is likely related to later effects on the child. These adverse effects of PPD based on sex of infant are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition*
  • Depression, Postpartum / complications*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior / psychology
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex Factors