New Studies Reveal Impact of Maternal Depression on Mothers and Children

Two new studies from Every Child Succeeds reveal the strong connection between maternal history of child maltreatment, depression, and child and parenting outcomes. They have important implications for home visiting and how best to support mothers and children. Here’s a synopsis reprinted with permission from the Moving Beyond Depression™ E-News:

Folger and colleagues published a paper in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology on 1,172 mothers in home visiting who were followed in the service until the child was one year of age. A history of interpersonal trauma was reported by 69.1% of mothers. Results showed that maternal experience of trauma was associated with elevated scores on the Ages and Stages: Social-Emotional questionnaire, indicated greater developmental risk. This relationship was explained (in part) by increased maternal depressive symptoms and lower levels of social support as reported by mothers at or shortly after enrollment in home visiting. These findings highlight the impact of maternal trauma on child functioning early in life, and suggest that interventions targeting depression and social support in mothers are potential ways to break the multigenerational impacts of adversity and violence.

In a second study, Shenk and colleagues published a paper in Prevention Science on 220 mothers who were followed over the first 18 months of home visiting. The purpose of the study was to examine the association between maternal trauma and later parenting stress. Results revealed a strong association between these variables. Most striking were two pathways, one of which started with maternal trauma history through depression at enrollment in home visiting and at 9 months to increased parenting stress at 18 months. The second started with maternal trauma history to lower levels of social support at enrollment to depression at 9 months and then to increased parenting stress at 18 months. Both pathways suggest that depression is an important way in which maternal trauma history drives subsequent parenting stress. The second pathway, however, suggests that addressing social support in mothers at a particular point in time-shortly after mothers enroll in home visiting-may decrease depression later, and in turn help mothers cope with stress in the parenting role 18 months into services.

Both of these studies suggest that intervening with maternal depression is an important form of trauma-informed care.  FL MIECHV is building community capacity to treat maternal depression by partnering with community mental health providers and home visiting programs in four counties to pilot Moving Beyond Depression™, an evidence-based in-home therapy program. FL MIECHV is also supporting training for Healthy Start and other home visiting staff in the Mothers and Babies program, an evidence-based intervention to help mothers manage stress and prevent depression.