Parenting Stress Plays a Mediating Role in the Prediction of Early Child Development from Both Parents' Perinatal Depressive Symptoms.

Maternal postnatal depression has been associated with a broad range of developmental risk among children.


However, there has been less focus on disentangling the effects of pre- and postnatal depressive symptoms, as well as examining the symptoms of both parents. This study aims to investigate the separate effects of pre- and postnatal depressive symptoms in mothers and fathers, and parents' differential effects on child social-emotional, cognitive, and language development at 18 months of age. Further, we investigate whether effects of depressive symptomatology on child outcomes are particularly strong when both parents evinced high symptom loads and whether parenting stress mediates associations between perinatal depressive symptoms and child developmental outcomes. The study used data from 1036 families participating in a community-based study from mid-pregnancy until 18 months postpartum. Depressive symptoms were assessed at seven time points (four prenatally). Within a structural equation framework, we found that parental perinatal depressive symptoms predicted child social-emotional functioning, specifically externalizing, internalizing, and dysregulation problems, as well as language developmental delay at 18 months. Controlling for postnatal symptoms we found no independent effect of prenatal depressive symptoms on any child outcomes. A differential effect was evident, linking maternal symptoms to social-emotional outcomes, and paternal symptoms to language outcomes. There was no evidence of stronger associations between depressive symptoms and child outcomes when both parents showed high symptom loads. However, parenting stress mediated most relations between parental depressive symptoms and child outcomes. Findings demonstrate the importance of including paternal depressive symptoms in both clinical and research contexts.

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 2018, 1–16, doi: 10.1007/s10802-018-0428-4.

Published Apr. 30, 2018 7:00 AM