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Recurrent Maternal Depression May Affect Child’s Behavior

Last Updated: June 13, 2011.

Exposure to recurrent maternal depressive symptoms in toddlerhood is significantly associated with childhood behavior problems at age 5 years; but formal child care at age 2 can positively impact negative behavior, according to a study published online June 13 in Pediatrics.

MONDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to recurrent maternal depressive symptoms in toddlerhood is significantly associated with childhood behavior problems at age 5 years; but formal child care at age 2 can positively impact negative behavior, according to a study published online June 13 in Pediatrics.

Lynne C. Giles, M.P.H., Ph.D., from the University of Adelaide in South Australia, and colleagues evaluated the impact of maternal depressive symptoms during toddlerhood on children's behavior at age 5 years, and whether formal or informal child care modified the association. Data were collected from 438 mothers and their children. Questionnaires were completed by the mothers during their children's infancy, in toddlerhood, and at age 5.

The investigators found that children whose mothers had recurrent depressive symptoms during the children's toddlerhood (age 2.5 or 3) had an increased risk for internalizing, externalizing, and total behavior problems at age 5. The presence of intermittent maternal depressive symptoms did not significantly affect children's behavior problems. The effect of recurrent maternal depression at age 5 was modified when the child was in formal child care at age 2 years, but informal child care did not significantly impact child behavior problems.

"As little as half a day in formal child care at the age of 2 years significantly modified the effect of recurrent maternal depressive symptoms on total behavior problems," the authors write.

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