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Title: Maternal depression and child development: Evidence from Sao Paulo's Western Region Cohort Study
Authors: BRENTANI, AlexandraFINK, Gunther
Citation: REVISTA DA ASSOCIACAO MEDICA BRASILEIRA, v.62, n.6, p.524-529, 2016
Abstract: Introduction: While a growing body of evidence has investigated the relationship between maternal mental health and child development, evidence on children's early life outcomes remains mixed. We analyze the empirical relationship between maternal depression and children's development at age one using data from the Sao Paulo Western Region Cohort project. Method: Seven hundred and ninety-eight (798) mother-child dyads living in the Butanta-Jaguare region of Sao Paulo were assessed through a home visit between January and March 2015. Maternal mental health was assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Mothers were classified as ""possibly depressed"" if their EPDS score was between 10 and 13 and as ""likely depressed"" if their EPDS score was >13. The child outcomes analyzed were height, weight, and overall development as assessed by the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). Height and weight were age-normalized using WHO growth standards. Stunting was defined as height-for-age z-score (HAZ) < -2. Obesity was defined as body mass index z-score (BMIZ) > 2. Adjusted and unadjusted linear regression models were used to assess the associations between Edinburgh scores and child outcomes. Results: No association was found between maternal depression variables and children's height, weight, stunting, and obesity. Positive associations were found between possible depression and ASQ (delta = 0.33; 95CI 0.11-0.54; p-value< 0.01); no associations were found between likely depression and any of the outcomes analyzed. Conclusion: The results from this study suggest that symptoms of maternal depression are not associated with delays in child development in the study setting analyzed. Further research will be needed to understand this lack of association: while it is possible that caregivers' mental health did not affect caregiving behavior, it is possible that the effect of maternal depression can vary according to timing, persistence, and intensity. It is also possible that the EPDS instrument may fail to identify mothers with clinical depression, or that children with depressed mothers get increased support from other family members or public early childhood focused programs.
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