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Keywords:

  • Maternal depression;
  • temperament;
  • infancy;
  • parent–child interaction;
  • development

Objective:  To examine how maternal depressive symptoms are related to infant development among low-income infants in rural Bangladesh and to examine how the relationship is affected by maternal perceptions of infant irritability and observations of caregiving practices.

Methods:  Development was measured among 221 infants at 6 and 12 months with the Bayley Scales II. Mothers reported on their depressive symptoms and on perceptions of their infant's temperament, and a home visit was made to complete the HOME Inventory.

Results:  Half (52%) the mothers reported depressive symptoms. In bivariate analyses, maternal depressive symptoms were related to low scores on the Bayley Scales. Infants whose mothers reported depressive symptoms and perceived their infants to be irritable acquired fewer cognitive, motor, and Orientation/Engagement skills between 6–12 months than infants whose mothers reported neither or only one condition. The relationship linking maternal depressive symptoms and perceived infant irritability with infant cognitive skills was partially mediated by parental responsiveness and opportunities for play in the home.

Conclusions:  The intergenerational risks of maternal depressive symptoms on infant development extend to rural Bangladesh and are accentuated when mothers perceive their infants as irritable. Mothers who report depressive symptoms and infant irritability may lack the capacity to provide responsive, developmentally-oriented caregiving environments.