The Effect of Postpartum Depression and Current Mental Health Problems of the Mother on Child Behaviour at Eight Years

Matern Child Health J. 2017 Jul;21(7):1563-1572. doi: 10.1007/s10995-017-2288-x.


Background Maternal postpartum depression (PPD) could affect children's emotional development, increasing later risk of child psychological problems. The aim of our study was to assess the association between child's emotional and behavioural problems and mother's PPD, considering maternal current mental health problems (CMP). Methods This is a secondary analysis from the EU-Childhood Obesity Project (NCT00338689). Women completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at, 2, 3 and 6 months after delivery and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) to assess CMP once the children reached the age of 8 years. EPDS scores > 10 were defined as PPD and GHQ-12 scores > 2 were defined as CMP. The psychological problems of the children at the age of eight were collected by mothers through the Child's Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). Results 473, 474 and 459 mothers filled in GHQ-12 and CBCL tests at 8 years and EPDS at 2, 3 and 6 months, respectively. Anxiety and depression was significantly increased by maternal EPDS. Children whose mothers had both PPD and CMP exhibited the highest levels of psychological problems, followed by those whose mothers who had only CMP and only PPD. PPD and CMP had a significant effect on child's total psychological problems (p = 0.033, p < 0.001, respectively). Children whose mothers had PPD did not differ from children whose mothers did not have any depression. Conclusions Maternal postpartum depression and current mental health problems, separately and synergistically, increase children's psychological problems at 8 years.

Keywords: Children behaviour problems; Early programming; Maternal depression; Nutrimenthe; Postpartum.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / complications*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents*
  • Depression
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Problem Behavior
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors