The association between maternal-reported responses to infant crying at 4 weeks and 6 months and offspring depression at 18: a longitudinal study

Catherine J Williams, David Kessler, Charles Fernyhough, Glyn Lewis, Rebecca M Pearson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

The purpose of the present study is to examine the association between maternal response to infant crying and the psychological health of the child in later life. Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort, consisting of 15,247 pregnancies, 10,278 with exposure variables and 3201 complete cases were identified as having exposure, covariate and outcome data. Using a postal questionnaire, mothers were asked regarding their infant at 4 weeks and 6 months, 'If they cry what do you do?': (a) pick them up immediately; (b) if they cry, leave them for a while, and if they do not stop, pick them up; or (c) never pick them up until you are ready. Outcome was an International Statistical Classification-10th revision criteria (ICD-10) diagnosis of depression at 18 years for the infant. Offspring of mothers who at 4 weeks reported that they never picked their infants up until they were ready were more likely to have depression at 18 years (OR = 2.06, CI 0.95-4.47, adjusted for sociodemographic confounding variables). There was no evidence for an association at 6 months. Including adjustment variables reduced the strength of our association; an observed objective measure of maternal response rather than a self-report may have more accurately determined the mother's actual responses. There is some evidence for an association between maternal reporting of responses to infant crying at 4 weeks and risk of developing depression at 18 years. If this association is found to be causal, interventions encouraging mothers to represent and respond to their infants' emotional states may help prevent offspring depression.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArchives of Women's Mental Health
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2016

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