Maternal Depression and Child Psychopathology: A Meta-Analytic Review

  • Sherryl H. GoodmanEmail author
  • Matthew H. Rouse
  • Arin M. Connell
  • Michelle Robbins Broth
  • Christine M. Hall
  • Devin Heyward


Although the association between maternal depression and adverse child outcomes is well established, the strength of the association, the breadth or specificity of the outcomes, and the role of moderators are not known. This information is essential to inform not only models of risk but also the design of preventive interventions by helping to identify subgroups at greater risk than others and to elucidate potential mechanisms as targets of interventions. A meta-analysis of 193 studies was conducted to examine the strength of the association between mothers’ depression and children’s behavioral problems or emotional functioning. Maternal depression was significantly related to higher levels of internalizing, externalizing, and general psychopathology and negative affect/behavior and to lower levels of positive affect/behavior, with all associations small in magnitude. These associations were significantly moderated by theoretically and methodologically relevant variables, with patterns of moderation found to vary somewhat with each child outcome. Results are interpreted in terms of implications for theoretical models that move beyond main effects models in order to more accurately identify which children of depressed mothers are more or less at risk for specific outcomes.


Depression Mothers Children Internalizing Externalizing Psychopathology Positive affect or behavior Negative affect or behavior Meta-analysis Moderators 



We thank Nancy Bliwise for statistical consultation, Sparkle Roberts and Kirstin Byrd for assistance in the collection and coding of studies and other research assistants who assisted in the collection of papers.

Supplementary material

10567_2010_80_MOESM1_ESM.doc (614 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 614 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sherryl H. Goodman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew H. Rouse
    • 1
  • Arin M. Connell
    • 2
  • Michelle Robbins Broth
    • 3
  • Christine M. Hall
    • 4
  • Devin Heyward
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyGeorgia Gwinnett CollegeLawrencevilleUSA
  4. 4.Marcus Autism CenterAtlantaUSA
  5. 5.CUNY-Hunter CollegeNew YorkUSA

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