Reduced Incidence of Maternal Depression

Definition

In the National Health Interview Survey, parents are considered to exhibit symptoms of depression if they respond “all of the time” or “most of the time” to at least two of the following questions1:

During the past 30 days, how often did you feel…

  • So sad that nothing could cheer you up;
  • Nervous;
  • Restless or fidgety;
  • Hopeless;
  • That everything was an effort;
  • Worthless.

This indicator, measured at the mother level, can be calculated as the number of mothers with infants and toddlers (age zero to three) who report symptoms of depression, divided by the total number of mothers with infants and toddlers in a state/community.

  • 1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis/index.htm

The National Survey of Children’s Health asks about the general status of the mother’s mental and emotional health and found 76.7% of mothers reported excellent or very good health, 18% reported being in good health, and 5.3% reported having fair or poor health.

Data collected from recent mothers in a 22-state area showed in 2006–2008, about one in seven mothers reported symptoms of postpartum depression in the two to nine months following their child’s birth. The prevalence of postpartum depression was especially high (more than one in five) among mothers with less than 12 years’ education and among American Indian/Alaska Native, black, and multiple-race mothers.1

The prevalence of depressive symptoms among parents of infants and toddlers is disproportionately high among single parents and among two-parent households with incomes below the poverty level. Among both these groups, it approaches one in 10.

— Excerpted from “The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States”2

2016 data from the National Survey of Children’s Health reports on parents’ current mental and emotional health (reported by one parent, by state) is available from the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health.

  • 1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Health Resources and Services Administration. (2011). Women’s health USA: 2011. Rockville, MD: Author.
  • 2. Murphey, D., Cooper, M., & Forry, N. (2013) The youngest Americans: A statistical portrait of infants and toddlers in the United States. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends. https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/MCCORMICK-FINAL.pdf

Population and sub-population estimates are not available at the community level. However, an individual community may be collecting relevant data for this indicator through a specific program or organization, such as a home visiting program. It is recommended that the community evaluate if the data are being collected, how, and for whom (i.e., which sub-populations). If it is determined that no data on this indicator are currently being collected, the community could work with local organizations to determine how to collect these data moving forward. For instance, home visiting programs that are already collecting survey data on mothers in their program might be able to add questions about exhibiting depression symptoms using the definition above. Then, once that is implemented, a community could evaluate if there are other locations, such as a pediatrician’s office, where these data could be collected on other mothers of infants and toddlers in the community.

Research Rationale

Children of depressed mothers are more likely than other children to have behavior problems, academic difficulties, and health problems (including psychiatric illness).123 Maternal depression has also been linked to delays in cognitive and motor development among children ages 28 to 50 months old.4 Long-term, severe maternal depression has been found to have especially adverse consequences for child development and behavior.56 Five-year-old children whose mothers experienced frequent and/or severe depression were more likely to have behavioral problems and lower vocabulary scores than those whose mothers had less chronic and/or severe depression.7 Among families receiving welfare, children of depressed mothers have lower average scores on math achievement tests than do other children.

— Excerpted from the Child Trends DataBank

  • 1. Dawson, G., Ashman, S. B., Panagiotides, et al. (2003). Preschool outcomes of children of depressed mothers: Role of maternal behavior, contextual risk, and children’s brain activity. Child Development, 74(4),1158-1175. Abstract available at: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467- 8624.00599
  • 2. Moore, K.A., Hair, E.C., Vandivere, S.M., Cameron, B., Thomson, L., & McNamara, M. (2006). Depression among moms: Prevalence, predictors, and outcomes for children. Research Brief, Publication #2006-1. Washington, DC: Child Trends. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/wpcontent/uploads/2013/03/Child_Trends-2006_03_31_RB_MomDepression.pdf
  • 3. Ahluwalia, S.K., McGroder, S.M., Zaslow, M., & Hair, E.C. (2001). Symptoms of depression among welfare recipients: A concern for two generations. Child Trends Research Brief, December 2001.Child Trends: Washington, D.C. Available online at: https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/WelfareDepression.pdf
  • 4. Petterson, S.M. & Albers, A.B. (2001). Effects of poverty and maternal depression on early child development. Child Development, 72(6), 1794-1813
  • 5. Brennan, P.A., Andersen, M.J. Najman. J.M., Williams, G.M., Hammen, C., and Bor, W. (2000). Chronicity, severity, and timing of maternal depressive symptoms: relationships with child outcomes at age 5. Developmental Psychology, 36(6), 759-766.
  • 6. Brennan, P.A., Andersen, M.J. Najman. J.M., Williams, G.M., Hammen, C., and Bor, W. (2000). Chronicity, severity, and timing of maternal depressive symptoms: relationships with child outcomes at age 5. Developmental Psychology, 36(6), 759-766.
  • 7. Brennan, P.A., Andersen, M.J. Najman. J.M., Williams, G.M., Hammen, C., and Bor, W. (2000). Chronicity, severity, and timing of maternal depressive symptoms: relationships with child outcomes at age 5. Developmental Psychology, 36(6), 759-766.