European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 27, Issue 7, pp 921–932 | Cite as

Maternal depression symptoms and internalising problems in the offspring: the role of maternal and family factors

  • Marilyn N. Ahun
  • Angele Consoli
  • Jean-Baptiste Pingault
  • Bruno Falissard
  • Marco Battaglia
  • Michel Boivin
  • Richard E. Tremblay
  • Sylvana M. CôtéEmail author
Original Contribution


Maternal depression symptoms (MDS) are a robust risk factor for internalising problems (IP) in the offspring. However, the relative importance of MDS and other factors associated with it (i.e. other types of maternal psychopathology, maternal parenting practices, family characteristics) is not well understood. To (a) identify a group of children with high levels of IP between 6 and 12 years using combined maternal and teacher assessments and (b) to quantify the associations between trajectories of MDS during early childhood and children’s IP trajectories before and after controlling for family factors associated with MDS. MDS and family factors were assessed in a population-based sample in Canada (n = 1537) between 5 months and 5 years. The outcome variable was membership in trajectories of teacher- and mother-rated IP between ages 6 and 12 years. Family factors were included as covariates in a multinomial logistic regression model. There was a strong association between MDS and children’s atypically high levels of IP in unadjusted analyses [OR 4.14 (95% CI 2.60; 6.61)]. The association was reduced, but remained strong [2.60 (1.55; 4.36)] when maternal psychopathology, maternal parenting, and family socioeconomic status were entered in the model. MDS, maternal anxiety, and low parental self-efficacy were associated with offspring’s high IP trajectories. MDS is associated with high levels of children’s IP independently of other maternal and family characteristics. Intervention targeting maternal psychopathology and parenting self-efficacy and testing the impact on children’s IP would provide information on the putative causal pathways between maternal and offspring’s symptomatology.


Child development Maternal depression symptoms Internalising problems Family factors 



Funding was provided by Ministère de la Santé (Québec), Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Santé, Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Société et Culture, Social Science and Humanities Research Center (Canada), Institute of Population and Public Health, Centre de recherche CHU Sainte Justine, University of Montreal, Pfizer Foundation and Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship. Michel Boivin was supported by the Canada Research Chair Program (Tier 1 : Canada Research Chair in Child Development).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marilyn N. Ahun
    • 1
  • Angele Consoli
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jean-Baptiste Pingault
    • 4
    • 5
  • Bruno Falissard
    • 5
  • Marco Battaglia
    • 7
    • 8
  • Michel Boivin
    • 1
    • 6
    • 11
  • Richard E. Tremblay
    • 1
    • 9
    • 10
  • Sylvana M. Côté
    • 1
    • 6
    • 9
    Email author
  1. 1.Research Unit on Children’s Psychosocial MaladjustmentUniversity of Montreal and Sainte–Justine HospitalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUniversité Pierre et Marie Curie, GH Pitié-SalpêtrièreParisFrance
  3. 3.INSERM U669, Universities of Paris-Descartes and Paris-SudParisFrance
  4. 4.Division of Psychology and Language SciencesUniversity College London and Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s CollegeLondonUnited Kingdom
  5. 5.CESP, INSERM U1018 University of Paris-Sud, University of Paris-Saclay, UVSQParisFrance
  6. 6.Tomsk State UniversitySiberiaRussia
  7. 7.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  8. 8.Division of Child, Youth and Emerging AdulthoodCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  9. 9.International Laboratory for Child and Adolescent Mental Health DevelopmentUniversity of MontrealMontrealCanada
  10. 10.University College DublinDublinIreland
  11. 11.École de psychologie, Université LavalQuebecCanada

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