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Depressed Moms Place Kids at Risk for Injury

mom and childA revealing new study finds that infants and toddlers whose mothers are severely depressed are almost three times more likely to suffer accidental injuries than other children in the same age group.

The study, published in the Advanced Access edition of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, suggests that proper treatment for depression would improve not only the mothers’ health, but the health of young children as well.

Prior studies have shown that mothers who reported symptoms consistent with clinical depression had children who experienced a significant number of accidental injuries between the ages 3 months to 2 years.

In his study, UAB psychologist David Schwebel, Ph.D., director of the UAB Youth Safety Lab, examined the difference between mothers with severe, chronic depression and those who were moderately depressed as their children grew from birth to first grade.

A likely cause for the link between severe maternal depression and young children’s injury risk is that chronically depressed mothers may not appropriately safeguard the physical environments that children engage in, Schwebel said. Another cause may be that symptoms of depression include inattention, poor concentration and irritability, which “might lead to poor or inconsistent supervision and enforcement of safety-related rules,” he said.

Schwebel used a sample of 1,364 mothers included in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care. The mothers were periodically asked to list all their children’s injuries that had required professional medical treatment. Also, on four occasions during the study, the mothers were asked to rate how often they experienced symptoms of depression.

Only 2.5 percent of the mothers in the sample reported severe, clinical depression and 15.5 percent reported being moderately depressed. The researchers found that young children, from birth to 3 years, whose mothers suffered severe, chronic depression, were three times more likely to experience accidental injuries than infants and toddlers whose mothers were only moderately depressed.

The link between severe, chronic depression in mothers and injuries in young children remained consistent even when taking into account the families’ socio-economic status, parenting styles, and the children’s sex, temperament and behavior.

However, when children grew older, from age 3 to first grade, there was little difference in the injury rates of those whose mothers suffered from severe depression and those who reported being moderately depressed when the children were toddlers.

Although the study did not address why the older children fared better, Schwebel said older children often begin making their own decisions about whether to act in safe or dangerous ways. “Therefore, parents matter a little less – and in particular, inadequate supervision by a depressed mother might not influence the child’s safety as much as it does during the toddler years.”

Future research should consider the environment in which children are injured and the ages at which children are most susceptible to accidental injuries when supervised by mothers who have depression. The various symptoms of maternal depression such as anger and irritability also should be considered, Schwebel said.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)

Depressed Moms Place Kids at Risk for Injury

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Depressed Moms Place Kids at Risk for Injury. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 13, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/05/15/depressed-moms-place-kids-at-risk-for-injury/2293.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jun 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Jun 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.