Maternal Depression and Childhood Health Inequalities

Full Article

An increasing body of literature documents considerable inequalities in the health of young children in the United States, though maternal depression is one important, yet often overlooked, determinant of children’s health. In this article, the author uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 4,048) and finds that maternal depression, particularly recurrent or chronic depression, puts children at risk of having unfavorable health when they are five years old. This finding persists despite adjusting for a host of demographic characteristics of the mothers and children (including children’s prior health) and is consistent across multiple health outcomes. Family instability, maternal health, and socioeconomic status account for the association between maternal depression and children’s health. Given that poor childhood health may lead to poor health and low socioeconomic status in adulthood, maternal depression may contribute to the intergenerational transmission of inequality.

Turney, Kristin. 2011. “Maternal Depression and Childhood Health Inequalities.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 52:314–332.