Maternal depression effects on infants and early interventions

Prev Med. 1998 Mar-Apr;27(2):200-3. doi: 10.1006/pmed.1998.0293.


Our recent research suggests that: (1) maternal depression negatively affects infants as early as the neonatal period, implicating prenatal effects of maternal depression; (2) as early as birth the infants show a profile of "dysregulation" in their behavior, physiology, and biochemistry which probably derives from prenatal exposure to a biochemical imbalance in their mothers; (3) these effects are compounded by the disorganizing influence of the mother's interaction behavior; (4) depressed mothers have two predominant interaction styles, withdrawn or intrusive, which seem to have differential, negative effects on their infants related to inadequate stimulation and arousal modulation; (5) nondepressed caregivers such as fathers may buffer these effects because they provide more optimal stimulation and arousal modulation; and (6) interventions that are mood altering for the mothers (e.g., music and massage therapy) and arousal reducing for the infants (e.g., the same therapies) make the mothers and infants more responsive to interaction coaching and improve their interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Period, Psychological*
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder / prevention & control
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Early Intervention, Educational*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors