Maternal depression trajectories and children’s behavior at age 5 years.


Objective: To assess the relationship between trajectories of maternal depression from pregnancy to the child’s age of 5 years and children’s emotional and behavioral difficulties at age 5 years. Study design: Mother-child pairs (n = 1183) from the EDEN mother-child birth cohort study based in France were followed from 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy to the child’s fifth birthday. Children’s behavior at age 5 years was assessed with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Maternal depression was assessed repeatedly with the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression questionnaire (pregnancy, 3, and 5 years of age) and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (4, 8, and 12 months postpartum). Homogeneous latent trajectory groups of maternal depression were identified within the study population and correlated with Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire scores by the use of multivariate linear regression analyzes. Results: Five trajectories of maternal symptoms of depression were identified: no symptoms (62.0%); persistent intermediate-level depressive symptoms (25.3%); persistent high depressive symptoms (4.6%); high symptoms in pregnancy only (3.6%); and high symptoms in the child’s preschool period only (4.6%). Children whose mothers had persistent depressive symptoms-either intermediate or high-had the greatest levels of emotional and behavioral difficulties at age 5 years. In addition, compared with children whose mothers were never depressed, those whose mothers had high symptoms in the preschool period also had increased levels of emotional symptoms, conduct problems, and peer problems. Conclusions: Maternal depression symptoms are related to children’s emotional and behavioral problems, particularly if they are persistent (29.9%) or occur during early childhood (4.6%).