Pathways from maternal depression to young adult offspring depression: an exploratory longitudinal mediation analysis.


Maternal depression in the peri-natal period is associated with increased risk for young adult depression in offspring. This study explored mediation of these links via trajectories of child conduct and emotional problems (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire) from ages 4-16 years old in data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children cohort (n = 13373). Through gender-specific structural equation models, a composite measure of exposure to early maternal depression (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale), predicted young adult depression at age 18 (Revised Clinical Interview Schedule – distal outcome). Mediational effects were then estimated by testing which parts of joint piecewise latent trajectory models for child/adolescent conduct and emotional problems were associated with both exposure and distal outcome. For girls, only conduct problems in early childhood were consistently indicated to mediate effects of early maternal depression on risk of young adulthood depression. Some evidence for a pathway via changing levels of childhood and adolescent emotional difficulties was also suggested. For boys, by contrast, the differing models gave less consistent findings providing some evidence for a small time-specific indirect effect via early childhood conduct problems. In addition to its practice implications the current methodological application offers considerable potential in exploratory longitudinal developmental mediation studies.