Maternal depressive symptoms are adversely associated with prevention practices and parenting behaviors for preschool children

Ambul Pediatr. Jan-Feb 2006;6(1):32-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ambp.2005.09.002.


Objective: To determine the relationship between maternal depressive symptoms and select prevention practices and parenting behaviors for older preschool children.

Methods: A telephone survey of mothers and female guardians of children entering kindergarten in Monroe County, New York, was administered to 400 eligible parents in 2001. The Mental Health Inventory-5 was used to determine maternal depressive symptoms. We examined the impact of maternal depression on well-child care, immunizations, routine dental care, tooth brushing, frequent reading, safe motor vehicle seating location, car seat or booster seat use, discipline consistency, and parenting confidence.

Results: A total of 17.7% of mothers had depressive symptoms, with increased rates among women who were poor, less educated, and single parents. Children of mothers with depressive symptoms were more likely to have not received routine dental care in the past year (21.1% vs 8.2%, P = .001), brush their teeth less than twice a day (37.1% vs 25.2%, P = .041), or be read to less than 3 times per week (31.0% vs 13.7%, P < .001) compared with children of mothers without depressive symptoms. In addition, mothers with depressive symptoms were more likely to describe inconsistent discipline practices (36.6% vs 20.1%, P = .005) and less confidence in their parenting (39.4% vs 18.5%, P < .001). All associations remained significant in multivariate analyses controlling for maternal race, ethnicity, education, income, age, and household structure.

Conclusions: Maternal depressive symptoms are associated with diminished positive parenting behaviors including dental care, reading, and discipline consistency for older preschoolers. These findings have implications for clinical pediatrics as well as preventive public health efforts.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • New York
  • Parenting / psychology*