Effects of maternal postpartum depression in a well-resourced sample: Early concurrent and long-term effects on infant cognitive, language, and motor development

Johanne Smith-Nielsen*, Anne Tharner, Marianne Thode Krogh, Mette Skovgaard Vaever

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

This study examined early and long-term effects of maternal postpartum depression on cognitive, language, and motor development in infants of clinically depressed mothers. Participants were 83 mothers and their full-term born children from the urban region of Copenhagen, Denmark. Of this group, 28 mothers were diagnosed with postnatal depression three to four months postpartum in a diagnostic interview. Cognitive, language, and motor development was assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development third edition, when the infants were 4 and 13 months of age. We found that maternal postpartum depression was associated with poorer cognitive development at infant age four months, the effect size being large (Cohen's d = 0.8) and with similar effects for boys and girls. At 13 months of age infants of clinical mothers did not differ from infants of non-clinical mothers. At this time most (79%) of the clinical mothers were no longer, or not again, depressed. These results may indicate that maternal depression can have an acute, concurrent effect on infant cognitive development as early as at four months postpartum. At the same time, in the absence of other risk factors, this effect may not be enduring. The main weaknesses of the study include the relatively small sample size and that depression scores were only available for 35 of the non-clinical mothers at 13 months.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-583
Number of pages13
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Volume57
Issue number6
Early online date9 Sep 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

Keywords

  • cognitive
  • concurrent effects
  • infant
  • language
  • long-term effects
  • Maternal postpartum depression
  • motor development

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