Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Attained Size Among Children in the First 2 Years of Life

Published:October 21, 2015DOI:



      To evaluate the relation of maternal depressive symptoms with attained size and whether it is stronger for young children in low-income families.


      Secondary analysis was performed of longitudinal data from enrollment and parents surveys from the Healthy Steps for Young Children National Evaluation among 4745 children who made at least one visit to a Healthy Steps site. Length and weight data from medical records were converted to z scores and percentiles for length for age and weight for length at 6, 12, and 24 months using 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth standards. Analyses evaluated the relation of maternal depressive symptoms at 2 to 4 months using a modified 14-item Center for Epidemiologic Depression Scale with attained size and child, maternal, and family characteristics. Regression models estimated the relation of symptoms with z scores and logistic regression the relation for short stature (below 10th percentile for length for age), adjusted for covariates.


      Maternal depressive symptoms were associated with z scores for length for age at 6, 12, and 24 months and short stature at 6 and 24 months for children in low/middle-income families. The z scores at 24 months remained significantly lower for children in low/middle-income families whose mothers reported depressive symptoms, after adjustment for covariates. The odds of short stature were significantly increased at 6 months in the total sample and among low/middle-income families for children whose mothers reported symptoms. Other measures of attained size were not associated with depressive symptoms.


      The link between maternal symptoms and young children's risk of short stature reinforces recommendations for increased screening for postpartum depressive symptoms and for clinicians to review growth charts with parents for impaired/unfavorable patterns.


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