The influence of early malnutrition on subsequent behavioral development. VII. The effects on maternal depressive symptoms

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1988 Feb;9(1):1-5.


A self-rating scale was used to assess the presence or absence of depressive symptoms among mothers of 129 Barbadian school children, ages 5 to 11 years, who had experienced marasmus in the first year of life. They were matched with the same number of mothers of comparison children who had no documented histories of malnutrition. Depressive symptoms, especially feelings of hopelessness, occurred more often among the mothers of previously malnourished children than among mothers of comparison children. Depressive symptoms were also more common in association with disadvantaged socioeconomic and home conditions. Maternal depressive symptoms were significantly correlated with the behavioral and cognitive functioning of the child during the school years. When both nutritional history and environmental conditions were controlled, maternal hopelessness had significant effects on school attendance and grades in reading, but there was no association with IQ. This led us to hypothesize that maternal depressive feelings may be an independent factor contributing to long-term behavioral and cognitive deficits in children with histories of early malnutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Barbados
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / complications*
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Morale
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / etiology*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Time Factors