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NSCAW, No. 13: Depression Among Caregivers of Young Children Reported for Child Maltreatment

Published: January 15, 2007
Abuse, Neglect, Adoption & Foster Care
National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), 1997-2014 and 2015-2022 | Learn more about this project
NSCAW: Research Briefs

Depression is a serious psychiatric disorder with symptoms that can impair physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. Depression is common among mothers of young children and is a significant risk factor for child maltreatment. Moreover, depression among mothers has been associated with a variety of adverse outcomes in their children’s infancy and childhood. Depression may disrupt a mother and child’s early relationship, which is critical to the healthy development of the child.
Infants often react to depressed mothers with anger, distress, withdrawal behavior, avoidance, and disruptions in the ability to regulate their own emotions. Consequently, infants of depressed mothers tend to cry more than babies of nondepressed mothers. They tend to be drowsy and fussy, less relaxed, less sociable, and more insecurely attached to their mothers, as well. Subsequently, they tend to have poorer mental, motor, and language skills development; less capacity to concentrate; fewer abilities across a broad spectrum of emotional skills; more negative responses to their environment; and more behavioral difficulties than children of nondepressed mothers.  Children of depressed mothers are also at increased risk for psychiatric illness.

Last Reviewed: April 29, 2019