Skip to main content

Mothers and Their Children: An Exploration of the Relationship Between Maternal Mental Health and Child Well-Being



Psychosocial factors and life stressors have an impact on long-term health effects on mothers and their children. Recent studies examining maternal mental health have predominantly focused on identifying maternal experiences with depression; however, there has been minimal research investigating maternal experiences with psychosocial risk factors and its relationship with child well-being.


Secondary analysis was conducted using data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study. The study sample includes 2396 adolescents and their biological mothers. Adolescents were between the ages of 14 and 19. We examined primary outcomes regarding mental health (depression and anxiety), life-satisfaction, and substance usage (alcohol and drugs).


The association between maternal psychosocial factors an adolescent depression was significant, F(26) = 5.29, p < .01. Mothers educational attainment and poverty level significantly predicted adolescent depression; with completion of some college (B = −0.411, p 0.025), a college degree (B = −0.540, p = 0.018), and living at the 300% poverty level (B = −0.725, p = 0.002) predicting lower levels of adolescent depression.


Our study demonstrates that there was a positive relationship between maternal mental health and adolescent mental health. Further, this study demonstrated that maternal mental health and social determinants of health are predictors of adolescent mental health and social functioning, thus indicating an inextricable connection to child well-being.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Abrams, L. S., & Curran, L. (2010). Maternal identity negotiations among low-income women with symptoms of postpartum depression. Qualitative Health Research, 21, 373–385.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ahun, M. N., Consoli, A., Pingault, J. B., Falissard, B., Battaglia, M., Boivin, M., Tremblay, R. E., & Côté, S. M. (2018). Maternal depression symptoms and internalising problems in the offspring: The role of maternal and family factors. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 27(7), 921–932.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Anda, R. F., Brown, D. W., Felitti, V. J., Bremner, J. D., Dube, S. R., & Giles, W. H. (2007). Adverse childhood experiences and prescribed psychotropic medications in adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(5), 389–394.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Berge, J. M., Patterson, J. M., & Rueter, M. (2006). Marital satisfaction and mental health of couples with children with chronic health conditions. Families, Systems, & Health, 24(3), 267–285.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brenning, K., Soenens, B., Braet, C., & Bal, S. (2012). The role of parenting and mother-adolescent attachment in the intergenerational similarity of internalizing symptoms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(6), 802–816.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Campo-Arias, A., & De Mendieta, C. T. (2021). Social determinants of mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet Global Health, 9(8), e1029–e1030.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, S. H., Rouse, M. H., Connell, A. M., Broth, M. R., Hall, C. M., & Heyward, D. (2011). Maternal depression and child psychopathology: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 14(1), 1–27.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Halligan, S. L., Murray, L., Martins, C., & Cooper, P. J. (2007). Maternal depression and psychiatric outcomes in adolescent offspring: A 13-year longitudinal study. JOurnal of Affective Disorders, 97(1–3), 145–154.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, A. S., LaLiberte, T., & Piescher, K. N. (2015). Defining and strengthening child well-being in child protection. Children and Youth Services Review, 54, 57–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lugaila, T. A. (2003). A child’s day: 2000 (Selected indicators of child well-being). US Census Bureau.

  • Monti, J. D., & Rudolph, K. D. (2017). Maternal depression and trajectories of adolescent depression: The role of stress responses in youth risk and resilience. Development and Psychopathology, 29(4), 1413–1429.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, B. W., Allen, N. B., & Laurent, H. (2018). Infant HPA axis as a potential mechanism linking maternal mental health and infant telomere length. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 88, 38–46.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Newman, S. J., & Holupka, C. S. (2015). Housing affordability and child well-being. Housing Policy Debate, 25(1), 116–151.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Price, S. K., & Cohen-Filipic, K. (2013). Daily life or diagnosis? Dual perspectives on perinatal depression within maternal and child health home visiting. Social Work in Public Health, 28(6), 554–565.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Raghavan, R., & Alexandrova, A. (2015). Toward a theory of child well-being. Social Indicators Research, 121(3), 887–902.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rushton, F. E., Byrne, W. W., Darden, P. M., & McLeigh, J. (2015). Enhancing child safety and well-being through pediatric group well-child care and home visitation: The Well Baby Plus Program. Child Abuse & Neglect, 41, 182–189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shonkoff, J. P. (2010). Building a new biodevelopmental framework to guide the future of early childhood policy. Child Development, 81(1), 357–367.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Shonkoff, J. P., Richter, L., van der Gaag, J., & Bhutta, Z. A. (2012). An integrated scientific framework for child survival and early childhood development. Pediatrics, 129(2), 460–472.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thompson, S., Jiang, L., Hammen, C., & Whaley, S. (2018). Association of maternal depressive symptoms and offspring physical health in low-income families. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 22(6), 874–882.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Turney, K., & Wildeman, C. (2016). Mental and physical health of children in foster care. Pediatrics, 138(5), 1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vis, S. A., Handegård, B. H., Holtan, A., Fossum, S., & Thørnblad, R. (2016). Social functioning and mental health among children who have been living in kinship and non-kinship foster care: Results from an 8-year follow-up with a Norwegian sample. Child & Family Social Work, 21(4), 557–567.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wood, J. N., Dougherty, S. L., Long, J., Messer, E. P., & Rubin, D. (2017). A pilot investigation of a novel intervention to improve behavioral well-being for children in foster care. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 27(1), 3–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. Crystal Coles.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Coles, D.C., Cage, J. Mothers and Their Children: An Exploration of the Relationship Between Maternal Mental Health and Child Well-Being. Matern Child Health J 26, 1015–1021 (2022).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Maternal mental health
  • Child well-being
  • Depression
  • Anxiety