The Association Between Exposure to Maternal Depression During Year 2 of a Child’s Life and Future Child Problem Behavior

Natalie Guerrero, Ronald Gangnon, Marah A. Curtis, Carmen R. Valdez, Deborah B. Ehrenthal, Elizabeth A. Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: We examined the association of exposure to maternal depression during year 2 of a child’s life with future child problem behavior. We conducted a secondary analysis to investigate whether race/ethnicity is a moderator of this relationship. Methods: We used Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study data (age 3 N = 3288 and 49% Black, 26% Hispanic, 22% non-Hispanic White; age 5 N = 3001 and 51% Black, 25% Hispanic, 21% non-Hispanic White; age 9 N = 3630 and 50% Black, 25% Hispanic, 21% non-Hispanic White) and ordinal logistic regression to model problem behavior at ages 3, 5, and 9 on maternal depression status during year 2. Results: At age 9, children whose mother was depressed during year 2 were significantly more likely to have higher internalizing (AOR = 1.92, 95% CI: 1.42,2.61) and externalizing (AOR = 1.65, 95% CI: 1.10,2.48) problem behavior scores. In our secondary analysis, race/ethnicity did not have moderating effects, potentially due to a limitation of the data that required use of maternal self-reported race/ethnicity as a proxy for child race/ethnicity. Discussion: Exposure to maternal depression after the prenatal and perinatal periods may have a negative association with children’s behavioral development through age 9. Interventions that directly target maternal depression during this time should be developed. Additional research is needed to further elucidate the role of race/ethnicity in the relationship between maternal depression and child problem behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)731-740
Number of pages10
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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