Effects of Antenatal Maternal Depression and Anxiety on Children's Early Cognitive Development: A Prospective Cohort Study

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 28;10(8):e0135849. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135849. eCollection 2015.


Introduction: Studies have shown that depression or anxiety occur in 10-20% of pregnant women. These disorders are often undertreated and may affect mothers and children's health. This study investigates the relation between antenatal maternal depression, anxiety and children's early cognitive development among 1380 two-year-old children and 1227 three-year-old children.

Methods: In the French EDEN Mother-Child Cohort Study, language ability was assessed with the Communicative Development Inventory at 2 years of age and overall development with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire at 3 years of age. Multiple regressions and structural equation modeling were used to examine links between depression, anxiety during pregnancy and child cognitive development.

Results: We found strong significant associations between maternal antenatal anxiety and poorer children's cognitive development at 2 and 3 years. Antenatal maternal depression was not associated with child development, except when antenatal maternal anxiety was also present. Both postnatal maternal depression and parental stimulation appeared to play mediating roles in the relation between antenatal maternal anxiety and children's cognitive development. At 3 years, parental stimulation mediated 13.2% of the effect of antenatal maternal anxiety while postnatal maternal depression mediated 26.5%.

Discussion: The partial nature of these effects suggests that other mediators may play a role. Implications for theory and research on child development are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies

Grant support

This work was supported by Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (FRM), French Ministry of Research: IFR program, INSERM Nutrition Research Program, French Ministry of Health Perinatality Program, French Agency for Environment Security (AFFSET), French National Institute for Population Health Surveillance (INVS), Paris–Sud University, French National Institute for Health Education (INPES), Nestlé, Mutuelle Générale de l'Education Nationale (MGEN), French Speaking Association for the Study of Diabetes and Metabolism (Alfediam), National Agency for Research (ANR), the Institute of Research in Public Health (IRESP: Cohort program) and Nestlé Nutrition and Guigoz, the French Group of General Pediatrics, and the French Epidemiological Research Group for Pediatrics.