Impact of maternal depressive symptoms on the development of infant temperament: Cascading effects during the first year of life
Rigato S., Stets M., Bonneville-Roussy A., Holmboe K.
<p>Objective: Maternal depression is associated with a range of effects on child development, including difficult temperament. This study investigated the impact of depressive symptoms (DS) that mothers experience after childbirth on infant negative affect (NA) across the first year of life.Method: In this longitudinal study (N = 65), identical questionnaires (the Beck Depression Inventory II, and the Infant Behavior Questionnaire – Revised, Very Short Form) were administered at four time points: 2 weeks, 4, 6, and 9 months after birth. Using structural equation modelling, we tested which of four different models of the relationship between maternal DS and infant NA during the postpartum months fit the data best. Results: The best-fitting model showed that maternal DS at 2 weeks were significantly associated with infant NA at 2 weeks and 4 months. Furthermore, a new independent effect emerged later during the first year, indicating that maternal DS at 4 months reliably predicted infant NA at 6 months. Conclusion: The days immediately following childbirth represent a crucial time for the development of infant temperament as maternal mood impacts significantly on infant NA for at least 4 months after birth. This does not constitute a single sensitive period; a new predictive effect emerges around 4 months of age, suggesting cascading influences of maternal DS across the first 6 months of life. These results indicate multiple points of potential intervention should a mother experience DS during the first postnatal year, as well as the need for support throughout the early stages of parenting.</p>