Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 940–948 | Cite as

Maternal Depressive Symptoms and the Risk of Overweight in Their Children

  • Liang WangEmail author
  • James L. Anderson
  • William T. Dalton III
  • Tiejian Wu
  • Xianchen Liu
  • Shimin Zheng
  • Xuefeng Liu


To examine the association between maternal depressive symptoms during early childhood of their offspring and later overweight in the children. Only children (n = 1,090) whose weights and heights were measured at least once for three time points (grades one, three and six) from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study were included. Maternal depressive symptoms, defined as a Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) score of 16 or greater, were assessed using CES-D when the child was 1, 24, and 36 months. Childhood overweight was based on standardized height and weight measures taken during the interviews, and was defined according to appropriate CDC age- and sex-specific BMI percentiles. Generalized estimating equation was used to examine the impact of maternal depressive symptoms on the childhood overweight after adjusting for covariates. Compared to children of mothers without depression at any of the three time points, when children were one, 24 and 36 months of age, children of mothers with depression at all three time points were 1.695 times more likely to be overweight after adjusting for other child characteristics (95 % CI = 1.001–2.869). When further adjusted for maternal characteristics, children of mothers with depression at all three time points were 2.13 times more likely to be overweight (95 % CI = 1.05–4.31). Persistent maternal depressive symptoms may be associated with an increased risk of childhood overweight in their offspring. Children of mothers with depression may benefit from special attention in terms of obesity prevention.


Maternal depressive symptoms Overweight Childhood 



The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development


Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale



Some data from this study were presented orally at the 2010 Greg Alexander Outstanding Students Papers Session in Maternal and Child Health for the 138th American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in Denver, November 8, 2010.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no disclosures of competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liang Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • James L. Anderson
    • 1
  • William T. Dalton III
    • 2
  • Tiejian Wu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Xianchen Liu
    • 4
    • 5
  • Shimin Zheng
    • 1
  • Xuefeng Liu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, College of Public HealthEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Family Medicine, James H. Quillen College of MedicineEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  5. 5.School of Public HealthShandong UniversityJinanChina

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