Mothers w/ Depression respond slower to Children

Depression in Women

Depression in WomenMental Health | Mothers with depression take longer to respond to their infant children than mothers without depression, according to a University of Missouri longitudinal study published in Infant and Child Development.

"The overall objective we are hoping to accomplish is to better understand how mother-child interaction works as well as the underlying mechanisms and potential factors at play," lead author Nicholas A. Smith, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, and co-authors said. 

"Once we identify what factors drive successful development outcomes and what factors potentially impair development, we can better identify at-risk children and then tailor potential interventions toward those that can benefit from them the most."

Researchers used recorded audio dialogue of 104 mothers and their children at 14 and 36 months of age. The mother-child pairs were pulled from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (EHSREP), a federal child development program for children whose family income is below the federal poverty line. 

Mental HealthParticipating mothers had varying levels of depression severity, measured prior to the study using the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale (CES-D).

Mothers with more severe depressive symptoms were found to be 11% slower to respond to their children than mothers with lower depression risk. Response delay decreased as the mother and child aged. 

These results suggest that “the interactive timing of speech to children may be particularly sensitive to maternal depression, modifying the contingent properties of children's early language experience,” researchers noted.

Researchers plan to use these findings as the basis for future research on the potential long-term impacts on children’s language development, vocabulary, and academic outcomes.


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