Quality of early mother–child interaction associated with depressive psychopathology in the offspring: A prospective study from infancy to adulthood

Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany.
Journal of Psychiatric Research (Impact Factor: 3.96). 06/2011; 45(10):1387-94. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2011.05.010
Source: PubMed


Evidence from animal research has revealed that less maternal care results in disturbed emotionality in the offspring. In the present study, the long-term impact of maternal responsiveness and stimulation during early mother-child interaction on depressive psychopathology was examined until adulthood. Data are from an epidemiological cohort study of the long-term outcome of early risk factors assessed at birth. At age 3 months, mothers and infants were videotaped during a nursing and playing situation. Maternal responsiveness and stimulation as well as infant responsiveness were evaluated by trained raters. At age 19 years, 314 participants (145 males, 169 females) were characterized on measures of depression through interview and questionnaire. In addition, measures of depression and anxiety were available from assessments in childhood. Results indicated that less maternal stimulation during early interaction was associated with a higher risk of depression in the offspring until the age of 19 years. In addition, children of less stimulating mothers showed more depressive symptoms at age 19 years and displayed more anxiety and depressive symptoms between the ages of 4.5 and 15 years. In contrast, maternal responsiveness was unrelated to children's outcome. In accordance with findings from animal research, the present study provides first longitudinal evidence in humans of a continuous and long-term influence of early maternal interaction behavior on the offspring's psychological adjustment until adulthood. The results suggest that the amount of maternally initiated contact behavior in a very early developmental stage may be crucial for children's mental health, regardless of child and maternal responsiveness.

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    • "This study provides further evidence of the need for intervention for mother-preterm infant dyads to ensure that developmental outcomes are met for these vulnerable infants. More recent developmental studies have shown that the impact of the quality of interaction between the mother-infant dyad extend into middle childhood and adulthood, affecting behavioral outcomes in school and adult mental health status (Easterbrooks, Bureau, & Lyons-Ruth, 2012; Schmid et al., 2011). "
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