This study examined associations between mothers’ depressive symptoms and parenting behaviors related to children’s nutrition and physical activity. Data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, a nationally representative study of children from infancy through kindergarten entry. Contemporaneous and lagged associations between maternal depressive symptoms and mothers’ parenting behaviors were tested, controlling for background characteristics. The mediating effect of use of a physician’s office or clinic as a source for routine care was tested. At each wave, between 18 and 20 % of mothers were considered as having moderate or severe depressive symptoms. These mothers were 1.3 percentage points more likely to put their infants to bed with a bottle, 2.6 percentage points less likely to have rules about the foods their children eat, and their children were 3.0 percentage points less likely to be in bed by 9:00 p.m. than mothers lacking depressive symptoms. These mothers also reported that their families ate dinner together fewer nights per week, and their children watched more television per day, than non-depressed mothers. The use of a physician’s office or clinic partially mediated associations between maternal depressive symptoms and whether infants went to bed with a bottle. Interventions that identify maternal depression early may be useful in promoting healthy parenting behaviors and weight outcomes among young children.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The reported sample sizes have been rounded to the nearest 50, per NCES regulations regarding disclosure of restricted-use data.
England, M. J., Sim, L. J., & Depression, C. (2009). Depression in parents, parenting, and children: Opportunities to improve identification, treatment, and prevention. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Lyons-Ruth, K., Wolfe, R., Lyubchik, A., & Steingard, R. (2002). Depressive symptoms in parents of children under age 3: Sociodemographic predictors, current correlates, and associated parenting behaviors. In N. Halfon & K. T. McLearn (Eds.), Child rearing in America: Challenges facing parents with young children (pp. 217–259). New York: Cambridge University Press.
McLennan, J. D., & Kotelchuck, M. (2000). Parental prevention practices for young children in the context of maternal depression. Pediatrics [Internet], 105(5), 1090–1095. Available from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/105/5/1090.abstract.
Morrissey, T. W., & Dagher, R. K. (2012). A longitudinal analysis of maternal depressive symptoms and children’s food consumption and weight outcomes. DC: Washington.
Bronte-Tinkew, J., Zaslow, M., Capps, R., Horowitz, A., & McNamara, M. (2007). Food insecurity works through depression, parenting, and infant feeding to influence overweight and health in toddlers. The Journal of Nutrition [Internet], 137(9), 2160–2165. Available from: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/9/2160.abstract.
Casey, P., Goolsby, S., Berkowitz, C., & Frank, D. et al. (2004). Maternal depression, changing public assistance, food security, and child health status. Pediatrics [Internet], United States, Evanston: American Academy of Pediatrics, 113(2), 298–304. Available from: http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/228387749?accountid=8285.
Surkan, P., Kennedy, C., Hurley, K., & Black, M. (2011). Maternal depression and early childhood growth in developing countries: Systematic review and meta-analysis. World Health Organization. Bulletin of the World Health Organization [Internet], Switzerland, Geneva: World Health Organization, 89(8), 607D–615D. Available from: http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/882319363?accountid=8285.
Surkan, P. J., Kawachi, I., & Peterson, K. E. (2008). Childhood overweight and maternal depressive symptoms. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health [Internet], 62(5), e11. Available from: http://jech.bmj.com/content/62/5/e11.abstract.
Harpham, T., Huttly, S., De Silva, M. J., & Abramsky, T. (2005). Maternal mental health and child nutritional status in four developing countries. Journal of epidemiology and community health [Internet], 59(12), 1060–1064 [cited 2012 Nov 17]. Available from: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1732980&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract.
Rahman, A., Iqbal, Z., Bunn, J., Lovel, H., & Harrington, R. (2004). Impact of maternal depression on infant nutritional status and illness: A cohort study. Archives of General Psychiatry [Internet], 61(9), 946–952. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15351773.
Anoop, S. (2004). Maternal depression and low maternal intelligence as risk factors for malnutrition in children: A community based case-control study from South India. Archives of Disease in Childhood [Internet], 89(4), 325–329 [cited 2012 Nov 8]. Available from: http://adc.bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/adc.2002.009738.
McConley, R. L., Mrug, S., Gilliland, M. J., Lowry, R., Elliott, M. N., & Schuster, M. A. et al. (2011). Mediators of maternal depression and family structure on child BMI: Parenting quality and risk factors for child overweight. Obesity [Internet] The Obesity Society, 19(2), 345–352. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/oby.2010.177.
Wang, L., Anderson, J. L., Dalton, W. T., Wu, T., Liu, X., & Zheng, S. (2013). Maternal depressive symptoms and the risk of overweight in their children. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 17(5), 940–948.
McLearn, K. T., Minkovitz, C. S., Strobino, D. M., Marks, E., & Hou, W. (2006). The timing of maternal depressive symptoms and mothers’ parenting practices with young children: implications for pediatric practice. Pediatrics [Internet], 118(1), e174–e182. Available from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/118/1/e174.abstract.
McLearn, K. T., Minkovitz, C. S., Strobino, D. M., Marks, E., & Hou, W. (2006). Maternal depressive symptoms at 2–4 months post partum and early parenting practices. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine [Internet], 160(3), 279–284. Available from: http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/160/3/279.
Sills, M. R., Shetterly, S., Xu, S., Magid, D., & Kempe, A. (2007). Association between parental depression and children’s health care use. Pediatrics [Internet], 119(4), e829–e836. Available from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/4/e829.abstract.
Witt, W. P., Fortuna, L., Wu, E., Kahn, R. S., Winickoff, J., Pirraglia, P. A., et al. (2006). Children’s use of motor vehicle restraints: Maternal psychological distress, maternal motor vehicle restraint practices, and sociodemographics. Ambulatory Pediatrics, 6(3), 145–151.
Eidelman, A. I., Schanler, R. J., Johnston, M., Landers, S., Noble, L., & Szucs, K. et al. (2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics [Internet], 129(3),e827–e841 [cited 2012 Nov 6]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22371471.
Hammons, A., & Fiese, B. (2011). Is frequency of shared family meals related to the nutritional health of children and adolescents? Pediatrics [Internet], United States, Evanston: American Academy of Pediatrics, 127(6), e1565. Available from: http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/873900124?accountid=8285.
Anderson, S. E., & Whitaker, R. C. (2010). Household routines and obesity in US preschool-aged children. Pediatrics [Internet], 125(3), 420–428. Available from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/125/3/420.
Snell, E. K., Adam, E. K., & Duncan, G. J. (2007). Sleep and the body mass index and obesity status of children and adolescents. Child Development, 78(1), 309–323.
Van Cauter, E., & Knutson, K. L. (2008). Sleep and the epidemic of obesity in children and adults. European Journal of Endocrinology, 159(suppl_1), S59–S66.
Tin, S. P. P., Ho, S. Y., Mak, K. H., Wan, K. L., & Lam, T. H. (2011). Breakfast skipping and change in body mass index in young children. International Journal of Obesity, 36(7), 899–906.
Powell, L. M., & Nguyen, B. T. (2012). Fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption among children and adolescents: Effect on energy, beverage, and nutrient intake. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine [Internet], 1–7 [cited 2012 Nov 8]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23128151.
Witt, W. P., Keller, A., Gottlieb, C., Litzelman, K., Hampton, J., Maguire, J., et al. (2009). Access to adequate outpatient depression care for mothers in the USA: A nationally representative population-based study. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 38(2), 191–204.
Bianchi, S. M. (2000). Maternal employment and time with children: Dramatic change or surprising continuity? Demography [Internet], 37(4), 401–414. Available from: http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/38977939?accountid=8285.
Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. T. (1994). Maternal depression and child development. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35(1), 73–122.
Kessler, R., Barker, P. R., Colpe, L. J., Epstein, J. F., Gfrorer, J. C., Hiripi, E., et al. (2003). Screening for serious mental illness in the general population. Archives of General Psychiatry, 60, 184–189.
Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.
Paulson, J. F., Dauber, S., & Leiferman, J. A. (2006). Individual and combined effects of maternal and paternal depression on parenting behavior. Pediatrics, 118(2), 659–668.
Egede, L. E. (2004). Diabetes, major depression, and functional disability among U.S. adults. Diabetes Care [Internet], 27(2), 421–428. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14747223.
Verbeke, G., & Molenberghs, G. (2009). Linear mixed models for longitudinal data. New York: Springer.
Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.
Pediatrics AA of. Media and Children [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2013 Jan 16]. Available from: Media and Children.
Cohen, G. (Ed.). (1999). The American academy of pediatrics guide to your child’s sleep 1999. New York: Villard.
Pachter, L. M., Auinger, P., Palmer, R., & Weitzman, M. (2006). Do parenting and the home environment, maternal depression, neighborhood, and chronic poverty affect child behavioral problems differently in different racial-ethnic groups? Pediatrics [Internet], 117(4), 1329–1338. Available from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/4/1329.abstract.
Grote, V., Vik, T., Von Kries, R., Luque, V., Socha, J., & Verduci, E. et al. (2010). Maternal postnatal depression and child growth: A European cohort study. BMC Pediatrics [Internet], 10, 14. Available from: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2850333&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract.
Downey, G., & Coyne, J. C. (1990). Children of depressed parents: An integrative review. Psychological Bulletin [Internet], 108(1), 50–76. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2200073.
Golden, O., & Fortuny, K. (2011). Improving the lives of young children (pp. 1–21). Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Golden, O., Hawkins, A., & Beardslee, W. (2011). Home visiting and maternal depression. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Turney, K. (2011). Labored love: Examining the link between maternal depression and parenting behaviors. Social Science Research [Internet], Elsevier Inc., [cited 2013 Mar 12] 40(1), 399–415. Available from: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0049089X10001900.
Taveras, E. M., Capr, A. M., Braverman, P. A., Jensvold, N. G., Escobar, G. J., & Lieu, T. Z. (2003). Clinician support and psychosocial risk factors associated with breastfeeding discontinuation. Pediatrics, 112(1), 108–115.
This project was supported by Grant Number R40MC23630 from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Services and Resources Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Department of Health and Human Services.
About this article
Cite this article
Morrissey, T.W. Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Weight-Related Parenting Behaviors. Matern Child Health J 18, 1328–1335 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-013-1366-y
- Maternal depressive symptoms
- Physical activity