A little bit of the blues: Low-level symptoms of maternal depression and classroom behavior problems in preschool children
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between low-level depressive symptoms in mothers and teacher-reported child behavioral outcomes. Participants included 442 low-income mothers of preschool-age children who were screened for maternal depression by their child's preschool teacher. Teacher reports of child behavior problems were collected on a random sample of the children (n = 264). Of mothers screened for depression, 16.7% reported low-level depressive symptoms (below the cutoff on the screener indicating clinically elevated symptoms). Analyses revealed that children of mothers with low-level depressive symptoms had significantly greater problems with externalizing behavior compared to children of mothers with no depressive symptoms. Practice or Policy: Results suggest that children whose mothers experience even low-level depressive symptoms are at risk for problems with behavior, pointing to the need for screening and interventions to address maternal depression at all levels of severity. Early childhood education providers are in an excellent position to support families impacted by symptoms of maternal depression through screening and education, supportive daily interactions, and referrals for services if needed. Teachers can also provide direct support for high-risk children's social and emotional skill development through the provision of sensitive, nurturing care. (author abstract)
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