Depressive symptoms and compromised parenting in low-income mothers of infants and toddlers: distal and proximal risks.
Low-income mothers develop depressive symptoms at higher rates than the general population, adding to the existing risk that economic hardship places on their infants and toddlers. Emphasizing a few key intervention targets, an approach that is especially relevant to mothers when depressive symptoms compromise their energy and concentration, can improve interventions with populations facing adversity. The goal of this study was to identify contextual risk factors that significantly contributed to depressive symptoms and that, in combination with depressive symptoms, were associated with compromised parenting. Using baseline data from 251 ethnically diverse mothers from six Early Head Start programs in the Northeastern and Southeastern US, who were recruited for a clinical trial of an in-home intervention, Belsky's ecological framework of distal to proximal levels of influence was used to organize risk factors for depressive symptoms in hierarchical regression models. Under stress, mothers of toddlers reported more severe depressive symptoms than mothers of infants, supporting the need for depressive symptom screening and monitoring past the immediate postpartum period. Multivariate models revealed intervention targets that can focus depression prevention and intervention efforts, including helping mothers reduce chronic day-to-day stressors and conflicts with significant others, and to effectively handle challenging toddler behaviors, especially in the face of regional disciplinary norms. Presence of a live-in partner was linked to more effective parenting, regardless of participants' depressive symptom severity.
Beeber, LS; Schwartz, TA; Martinez, MI; Holditch-Davis, D; Bledsoe, SE; Canuso, R; Lewis, VS
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