Analysis of data from the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth reveals that 6% of children are born to mothers who experienced symptoms of depression during their first 2 years of life. The prevalence rises steadily until children are 10 years of age when it reaches 9%, and thereafter remains relatively stable. Children of depressed mothers are at increased risk of having low receptive vocabulary and displaying inattention or physical aggression at ages 4 to 5 years, only partially attributable to family demographic factors, family functioning and parenting qualities. Maternal depression occurring when the child was 2 to 3 years of age, was a risk factor for anxiety in 10 and 11 year olds. Timing or duration of maternal depression had no effect on math achievement. The risk of poor child outcome was greatest for mothers who experienced depression continuously or when their child was 2 to 3 years or older. Nurses need to assess and intervene to reduce the impact of depression on mothers and their children's development, well beyond the postpartum period.
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