The association betweenmaternal depression and postpartum infant developmental problems is the area ofpsychological research that produced a decent number of studies where thecontext of the emotional, physiological, cognitive, behavioral and socialdevelopment of children was well examined and documented. Children who early inlife experience maternal depression, may experience lasting effects on theirbrain architecture, and persistent disruptions of their stress responsesystems. Studies of those children show patterns of brain activity (as observedon an electroencephalogram) that are similar to those found in adults withdepression (Dawson et al., 1997).
Multiple child outcomes and child responseprocesses related to maternal depression require the thoroughly studies aboutthese connections and this paper aims to investigate whether maternaldepression has an effect on the socio-emotional and cognitive outcome of thechild. How the mechanisms underlying these associations work, how they affect child’spathways of development, behavior, what kind of role they play in developingchild characteristics, and how they change over time are the questions thatmain purpose of investigating it, is to help clinical research for preventionand treatment of it. In the study “Trajectories ofmaternal depressive symptoms across the birth of a child” the researchersfollowed the 120 women from different ethnical backgrounds, primarily lowincome, from the pregnancy through two years postpartum. In order to gain the betterunderstanding of how different patterns of maternal depression affect infantand toddler early life, the researchers examined depression symptoms during participants’pregnancy (the first interviews were administered in person, once theparticipants were in their third trimester), at 3 months postpartum (conductedover the phone) at 1 and 2 years postpartum. The toddler emotional development was assessed at age 1 and 2 via videoobservations and mother report (Harris et al.
). The toddlers and mothers werevideotaped during ten minutes free play task and two minutes cleanupinteraction task, which took place in the participants’ homes. Trained researchassistants were in charge to code those interactions, and results were placedinto behavioral, affect and dyadic scales of toddler development. Becausedepression was assessed during and after pregnancy, the researchers used twodifferent measurements, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the BeckDepression Inventory-II, to minimize the overlap of typical symptoms ofpregnancy with similar symptoms of depression, and to provide more accurateresults. The study found that lower education, young mother’s age and loweconomic status were significantly correlated with developed maternaldepressive symptoms which later affected emotional development of the toddler.
Thedepressive symptoms have shown the decrease from the first trimester ofpregnancy to two years postpartum for the majority of the participants but forthose whose depressive symptoms remained the same, they have reported theirtoddler’s emotionality as problematic. The second study “MaternalDepression and Infant Daytime Cortisol” aimed to investigate infants’ daytimecortisol production in relation to the exposure to maternal depression, andanxiety. The measurements of cortisol production were done at morning, and atthe bedtime, when infants were 6, 12 and 18 months old. The participantswere recruited from general health care institutions, psychiatric hospitals,baby clinics and shopping centers in the Oslo, the capital of Norway (Azak atel.). Through the diagnostic interview with mothers, researchers formed the non-depressioncontrol group, and depression group, as the main group of research interest.
The depression group was divided into 2 groups – the first group consisted ofmothers who reported the experience of depression symptoms only, while thesecond group consisted of mothers who were experiencing depression and anxietyat the same time. They were not significantly different in educational leveland age. The researchers trained them to sample infants ‘saliva at home, andasked them to complete cortisol diary questionnaire describing the meals,activities, wake-up time, bedtime, any use of medication, for each time theresearchers requested sampling.
The findings of this longitudinalstudy first suggested that infants of mothers who experienced depression andanxiety had higher cortisol production during the day, and higher bedtimevalues compared to the infants of non-depressed mothers, and infants of”depressed only” mothers (Azak et al.). They also had a lower birth weight. At6 and 12 months of age, the infants of non-depressed and “depressed only”mothers had significantly more decrease in cortisol from morning to eveningcompared to infants of depressed mothers with anxiety disorder