HealthDay News — Children exposed to maternal depression have an increased risk for developmental vulnerability at school entry, with stronger associations for exposure to maternal depression before age 1 year and between ages 4 and 5 years, according to a study published online Aug. 17 in Pediatrics.

Elizabeth Wall-Wieler, Ph.D., from Stanford University in California, and colleagues examined the association between exposure to maternal depression before age 5 years and five domains of developmental vulnerability in a cohort study involving 52,103 children who completed the Early Development Instrument between 2005 and 2016.

The researchers found that compared with children not exposed to maternal depression before age 5 years, those exposed to maternal depression before age 5 years had a 17 percent increased risk for having at least one developmental vulnerability at school entry. The strongest associations were seen between exposure to maternal depression and difficulties in social competence, physical health and well-being, and emotional maturity (adjusted relative risks, 1.28, 1.28, 1.27, respectively). Exposure to maternal depression before age 1 year and between ages 4 and 5 years was most strongly associated with developmental vulnerability for most developmental domains.

“We are facing a public health crisis,” write the authors of an accompanying editorial. “Maternal depression is widespread and not limited to the perinatal period. We have a role as pediatricians to work toward diminishing the deleterious effects of depression on mothers and their children.”

Abstract/Full Text

Editorial