Maternal patterns of antenatal and postnatal depressed mood and the impact on child health at 3-years postpartum.

Erin J. Rotheram-Fuller, Mark Tomlinson, Aaron Scheffler, Thomas W. Weichle, Panteha Hayati Rezvan, Warren Scott Comulada, Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objective: The consequences of maternal depressed mood on children's growth, health, and cognitive and language development are examined over the first 3 years of life. Method: Pregnant women in 24 periurban township neighborhoods in Cape Town, South Africa (N = 1,238 mothers) were randomized by neighborhood to a home visiting intervention or a standard care condition. Reassessments were conducted for 93%-85% of mothers at 2-weeks, 6-, 18-, and 36-months postbirth. Regressions were conducted on measures of children's growth, behavior, language, and cognition to examine the impact of four patterns of depressed mood: antenatal only (n = 154, 13.8%), postnatal only (n = 272, 24.3%), antenatal and postnatal (n = 220, 19.7%), and no depressed mood on any assessment (n = 473, 42.3%). Results: Patterns of depressed mood were similar across intervention conditions. Depressed mothers were significantly less educated, had lower incomes, were less likely to be employed or to have electricity; were more likely to report problematic drinking of alcohol, experience food insecurity, interpersonal partner violence, and to be HIV seropositive. At 36 months, the pattern of maternal depressed mood over time was significantly associated with children's compromised physical growth, both in weight and height, and more internalizing and externalizing symptoms of behavior problems. Measures of language and cognition were similar across maternal patterns of depressed mood. Conclusions: Mothers who report depressed mood face significantly more life challenges, both environmental stressors related to poverty and other problematic behaviors. More proximal, postnatal depressed mood appears to have a larger influence on their children, compared with antenatal depressed mood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-230
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • early childhood adjustment
  • food insecurity
  • home visiting
  • maternal depression
  • patterns of depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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