Maternal Depression and Intimate Partner Violence: Impacts on Children
LewisFirst, MD, MS, Editor in Chief, Pediatrics
Among the many adverse childhood experiences, one must consider are the effects of
maternal depression and of mothers being the victim of physical or sexual violence.
What is the toll of these on children? Neamah et al. (10.1542/peds.2017-3457) decided to evaluate this by looking at the strength of such an association on the
cognitive development as well as physical growth of over a thousand toddlers between
18 to 36 months living in Tanzania. These children underwent developmental testing
using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and had their growth parameters measured.
Mothers completed the valid and reliable Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) and
the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey Questionnaire. The results of the data
collected are quite troubling and show that when both depression and intimate partner
violence (IPV) were present in a mother, there was developmental delay in multiple
cognitive modalities. In addition, IPV even without maternal depression was associated
with expressive communication delay. While depression did not show an association
with poor growth, IPV did increase the odds of a child showing stunted growth compared
to toddlers whose mothers did not experience IPV. The authors provide an accompanying
discussion of how maternal depression and IPV can play a role in developmental delay
and nutritional growth that is well worth your attention. It is becoming increasingly
more important for those of us caring for infants and toddlers to recognize how maternal
adversity can contribute to those experiences. Doing so in turn should further strengthen
our obligation to refer these mothers to clinical, psychological, and social service
supports that will not only help them develop strengths to overcome these adversities
but in doing so, provide their children with the strengths and resiliencies to help
them further their growth and development. Check out this article and learn more.