The Effect of Postpartum Depression and Current Mental Health Problems of the Mother on Child Behaviour at Eight Years


Background Maternal postpartum depression (PPD) could affect children’s emotional development, increasing later risk of child psychological problems. The aim of our study was to assess the association between child’s emotional and behavioural problems and mother’s PPD, considering maternal current mental health problems (CMP). Methods This is a secondary analysis from the EU-Childhood Obesity Project (NCT00338689). Women completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at, 2, 3 and 6 months after delivery and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) to assess CMP once the children reached the age of 8 years. EPDS scores > 10 were defined as PPD and GHQ-12 scores > 2 were defined as CMP. The psychological problems of the children at the age of eight were collected by mothers through the Child’s Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). Results 473, 474 and 459 mothers filled in GHQ-12 and CBCL tests at 8 years and EPDS at 2, 3 and 6 months, respectively. Anxiety and depression was significantly increased by maternal EPDS. Children whose mothers had both PPD and CMP exhibited the highest levels of psychological problems, followed by those whose mothers who had only CMP and only PPD. PPD and CMP had a significant effect on child’s total psychological problems (p = 0.033, p < 0.001, respectively). Children whose mothers had PPD did not differ from children whose mothers did not have any depression. Conclusions Maternal postpartum depression and current mental health problems, separately and synergistically, increase children’s psychological problems at 8 years.

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We acknowledge the European Childhood Obesity Project group and the families who participated in the study. European Childhood Obesity Project group: Beyer J, Fritsch M, Grote V, Haile G, Handel U, Hannibal I, Koletzko B, Kreichauf S, Pawellek I, Schiess S, Verwied-Jorky S, von Kries R, Weber M (Children’s University Hospital, University of Munich Medical Centre, Munich, Germany), Dobrzańska A, Gruszfeld D, Janas R, Wierzbicka A, Socha P, Stolarczyk A, Socha J, (Children’s Memorial Health Institute, Warsaw, Poland), Carlier C, Dain E, Goyens P, Van Hees JN, Hoyos J, Langhendries JP, Martin F, Poncelet P, Xhonneux A, (ULB Bruxelles and CHC St Vincent Liege), Perrin, E (Danone Research Centre for Specialised Nutrition, Schiphol, The Netherlands), Agostoni C, Giovannini M, Re Dionigi A, Riva E, Scaglioni S, Vecchi F, Verducci E (University of Milan), Closa-Monasterolo R, Escribano J, Blanco A, Canals F, Cardona M, Ferré N, Gispert-Llauradó M, Luque V, Mendez-Riera G, Rubio-Torrents MC, Zaragoza-Jordana M (URV).


The studies reported herein have been carried out with partial financial support from the Commission of the European Communities, specific RTD Programme “Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources”, within the 5th. Framework Programme, research grants no. QLRT-2001-00389 and QLK1-CT-2002-30582, and the 7th Framework Programme (FP7/2008-2013) under grant agreement nº 212652 (NUTRIMENTHE Project “The Effect of Diet on the Mental Performance of Children” and (FP7/2007-2013), under the grant agreement n°289346 (project EarlyNutrition). This manuscript does not necessarily reflect the views of the Commission and in no way anticipates the future policy in this area.

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Closa-Monasterolo, R., Gispert-Llaurado, M., Canals, J. et al. The Effect of Postpartum Depression and Current Mental Health Problems of the Mother on Child Behaviour at Eight Years. Matern Child Health J 21, 1563–1572 (2017).

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  • Children behaviour problems
  • Maternal depression
  • Postpartum
  • Nutrimenthe
  • Early programming