Background: Children of mothers who experience depression in pregnancy may be at high risk of emotional disturbances; however heterogeneity in risk suggests that other factors could play a moderating role. We test the hypothesis that children growing up in families characterised by both maternal depression and socioeconomic disadvantage are especially likely to have temperamental difficulties.
Methods: Data come from the mother-child EDEN cohort study based in France (n=1903 mother-child pairs followed from 24 weeks of pregnancy to 12 months of age). Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed using the CES-D questionnaire, family socioeconomic position by family income and child temperament by the EAS at age 12 months. Linear regression analyses were adjusted for demographic characteristics (child's age, sex, mother's age at birth, number of siblings, parental separation, nonmaternal care) as well as child's premature birth, birth weight, duration of breastfeeding, maternal anxiety during pregnancy and maternal postnatal depression.
Results: Accounting for age and sex, family risk (i.e. combined maternal depression and family income) was associated with children' scores of emotionality (p<0.0001) and activity (p=0.02). In multivariate analyses, children growing up exposed to both maternal depression and low income had the highest emotionality scores (β=0.57, se=0.14, p=0.0001).
Limitations: Maternal depression symptoms are self-reported.
Conclusions: Addressing the mental health needs of socioeconomically disadvantaged families with young children may help reduce the burden of internalising problems in the next generation.
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