Prevalence of mental health problems in preschoolers and the impact of maternal depression

  • Andressa Jacondino Pires
  • Mariana Bonati de Matos
  • Carolina Coelho Scholl
  • Jéssica Puchalski Trettim
  • Fernanda Teixeira Coelho
  • Fábio Monteiro da Cunha Coelho
  • Karen Amaral Tavares Pinheiro
  • Ricardo Tavares Pinheiro
  • Luciana de Avila QuevedoEmail author
Original Contribution


A large number of children of depressed mothers have one or more mental disorders. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of maternal depression on the mental health of 4–5-year-old children of adolescent mothers, according to the hypotheses generated from the model of accumulation. Between October 2009 and March 2011, all pregnant adolescents who received prenatal care from the public health system in Pelotas (southern Brazil) were invited to participate in the study and have been prospectively followed. Of these individuals, 413 participants were evaluated in the postpartum period and when the child was 2–3 years old and 4–5 years old (current stage). The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire was used to assess mental health problems in children, and the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI)-Plus version was used to assess maternal depression. We applied a structured modeling approach to examine the relations between three different hypothesized life course models (accumulation, critical period, and mobility) and maternal depression. After selecting the most appropriate model, we used a logistic regression analysis to assess the effect of depression on mental health problems in 4–5-year-old children of adolescent mothers. We used the Chi square test to estimate the prevalence of mental health problems in 4–5-year-old children. The longer the time of exposure to maternal depression, the greater the probability that the child would present behavioral problems. Investments in strategies to prevent mental disorders beginning in the gestational period are important.


Child development Maternal depression Preschoolers Child mental health Mental health problems Adolescent mothers 



This research was funded by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPQ)—Process no 474786/2012-9.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that no conflicts of interest exist.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andressa Jacondino Pires
    • 1
  • Mariana Bonati de Matos
    • 1
  • Carolina Coelho Scholl
    • 1
  • Jéssica Puchalski Trettim
    • 1
  • Fernanda Teixeira Coelho
    • 1
  • Fábio Monteiro da Cunha Coelho
    • 1
  • Karen Amaral Tavares Pinheiro
    • 1
  • Ricardo Tavares Pinheiro
    • 1
  • Luciana de Avila Quevedo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Postgraduate Programme in Health and BehaviorCatholic University of PelotasPelotasBrazil
  2. 2.Postgraduate Programme in Health and BehaviorCatholic University of PelotasPelotasBrazil

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