Maternal depressed mood and child development over the first five years of life in South Africa

Sarah Gordon, Erin Rotheram-Fuller, Panteha Rezvan, Jackie Stewart, Joan Christodoulou, Mark Tomlinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: While the negative impact of peri-natal depression is well-documented in high-income countries, the long-term effects across the life course in low and middle-income countries is less clear. Children's adjustment over the first five years is examined as a function of patterns of maternal depressed mood. Methods: Pregnant women in 24 peri-urban townships (N = 1,238) were randomized to a home-visiting intervention or standard care and reassessed five times, with high retention. There were no intervention effects on children past 18 months. Multilevel regression models examined the impact of depressed mood on child outcomes. Using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, four patterns of maternal depressed mood were identified: never (40.6%); antenatal (13.0%); early childhood (26.1%); and recurrent episodes of depressed mood (20.3 %). Findings: Mothers' patterns of depressive symptoms and child outcomes were similar, regardless of intervention. Never depressed mothers were significantly younger, had higher income, less food insecurity, were more likely to have electricity, be living with HIV or have an HIV positive partner, and had fewer problems with alcohol than depressed mothers. Children of mothers who experienced depressed mood weighed less, were more aggressive, and were hospitalized more often than children of never depressed mothers, but were similar in cognitive and social development. Interpretations: Depressed mood, has significant negative impacts on South African children's growth and aggressive behavior. The timing of maternal depressed mood was less important than never having a depressed mood or a recurrent depressed mood. Funding: There were no funding conflicts in executing this trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-356
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • child development
  • maternal depressed mood
  • maternal mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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