Risk factors associated with trajectories of mothers' depressive symptoms across the early parenting period: an Australian population-based longitudinal study

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2014 Apr;17(2):115-25. doi: 10.1007/s00737-014-0411-1. Epub 2014 Jan 15.


Approximately 14 % of women experience depressive symptoms in the first postnatal year. Few studies have examined the persistence of symptoms beyond this time. This study aims to (a) assess the course of women's depressive symptoms from the first postnatal year to when their children were aged 6-7 years, (b) identify distinct groups of women defined by their symptom trajectories over time, and (c) identify antenatal and early postnatal risk factors associated with persistent symptoms. Data from 4,879 women participating in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children were analysed using latent growth modelling and logistic regression to identify risk factors associated with class membership. For the overall sample, depressive symptoms were highest during the first postnatal year and then gradually decreased over 6-7 years. Two distinct classes were identified with the majority of women (84 %) reporting minimal symptoms over time, and 16 % experiencing persistently high symptoms. Risk factors were younger maternal age, being from a non-English speaking background, not completing high school, having a past history of depression, antidepressant use during pregnancy, child development problems, lower parenting self-efficacy, poor relationship quality, and stressful life events. This research identifies risk factors that may predispose mothers to enduring depressive symptoms, offering opportunities for early identification and targeted early intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Life Change Events*
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors