Maternal depressive symptoms at 2 to 4 months post partum and early parenting practices

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006 Mar;160(3):279-84. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.160.3.279.


Objective: To determine whether maternal depressive symptoms, reported when infants are 2 to 4 months old, are associated with mothers' early parenting practices.

Design: Secondary data analyses collected from the National Evaluation of Healthy Steps for Young Children. Data sources included newborn enrollment questionnaires and parent interviews when infants were 2 to 4 months old. Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale.

Setting: Twenty-four pediatric practices across the United States.

Participants: A total of 5565 families enrolled in Healthy Steps; 4874 mothers (88%) completed 2- to 4-month interviews and provided Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale data; 17.8% of mothers reported having depressive symptoms.

Main outcome measures: Ten parenting practices assessed in 3 domains: safety (sleep position and lowering water temperature), feeding (cereal, water, or juice; continuing breastfeeding), and practices to promote child development (showing books, playing with infant, talking to infant, and following 2 or more routines).

Results: Mothers with and without depressive symptoms reported similar uses of safety and feeding practices. Mothers with depressive symptoms had reduced odds of continuing breastfeeding (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.61-0.88), showing books (AOR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.68-0.97), playing with the infant (AOR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.54-0.90), talking to the infant (AOR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.63-0.86), and following routines (AOR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.52-0.72).

Conclusion: Maternal depressive symptoms are common in early infancy and contribute to unfavorable parenting practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors