Maternal mental health and childrearing context in the development of children at 6, 18 and 36 months: a Taiwan birth cohort pilot study


Bih-Ching Shu, Institute of Allied Health Sciences and Department of Nursing, National Cheng Kung University, No. 1 Da-Hsueh Road, Tainan 701, Taiwan


Background  This study investigated a possible pathway of the childrearing context and maternal mental health at 6 months, and how these factors influence children's development at 6, 18 and 36 months.

Methods  Using random sampling, 2048 children and mothers were selected. The mother's health status was evaluated using the Taiwanese version of the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), and infant development was assessed using the high reliable Taiwan birth cohort study instrument. All data were collected using parental self-report, and were analysed using multiple linear regression analysis and further pathway using structural equation modelling.

Results  This study showed that 12 factors effected children's development at 6 months, and some dissipated with growth. Of these, maternal education had an enduring effect on different domains of child development, and this effect intensified as the child grew older. Children who grew up in a family with more siblings would show a delay in language development at 6 months; they have a delay in motor and social development at 18 and 36 months. Additionally, maternal mental health effected the children's fine motor development at 6 months. However, this effect disappeared at 18 months, and influenced children's social development at 36 months.

Conclusions  This study demonstrated that the development of children at as young as 6 months is affected by various factors. These factors may dissipate, continue to influence child development up to 3 years of age, turn from being disadvantageous to beneficial, or affect different domains of child development. Also, parental self-report instrument might be has its limitation and could be contributed by several confounding factors. Thus, continuous longitudinal follow-up on changes in maternal conditions, family factors, and environmental factors is vital to understand how these early infantile factors affect each other and influence the developmental trajectories of children into early childhood.