Maternal depression and anxiety and infant development: a comparison of foreign-born and native-born mothers

Public Health Nurs. 2004 May-Jun;21(3):237-46. doi: 10.1111/j.0737-1209.2004.21306.x.


Studies that investigate infant and/or child development in families of depressed or anxious mothers do not include samples of foreign-born non-English-speaking mothers. This article describes a pilot study investigating infant development, maternal depression, and anxiety in comparison samples of native-born and foreign-born mothers and children from Vietnam, Laos (Hmong), and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Maternal depression and anxiety were measured with the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25, and the developmental status of children 0-25 months of age was measured with the Denver II. Foreign-born mothers were more anxious than native-born mothers. Non-English-speaking foreign-born mothers were clinically depressed (1.83) and moderately anxious (1.62). Infants of native-born mothers and English-speaking foreign-born mothers performed better on the Denver II than children of foreign-born non-English-speaking mothers. Infants and toddlers of non-English-speaking mothers appear to be at high risk for delays during their first 25 months of life. Public health nurses need to advocate for appropriate interpreter services and mental health resources for non-English-speaking mothers of young children. Developmental screening should reflect cultural variations in parental expectations of how and when children meet developmental milestones. Replication studies and investigation about the long-term development of this high-risk group of children are needed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / ethnology*
  • California
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo / ethnology
  • Depression / ethnology*
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Laos / ethnology
  • Multilingualism
  • North Carolina
  • Pilot Projects
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Isolation
  • Vietnam / ethnology