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McLennan, John D. & Kotelchuck, Milton (2000). Parental Prevention Practices for Young Children in the Context of Maternal Depression. Pediatrics, 105(5), 1090-1095.


Objective: To assess the relationship between maternal depression and 4 parent-based prevention practices (use of car seats and electrical plug covers, presence of syrup of ipecac in the home, and reading to their child), using a large nationally representative follow-back sample.
Methods: The maternal self-report components of 2 databases were used for this study, the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey and the linked companion 1991 Longitudinal Follow-Up Survey. A total of 7537 mothers with newborns in 1988 served as the subjects. Measures of the 4 prevention practices were extracted from the 1991 survey. Depressive symptom measures were derived from both surveys using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale. Weighted bivariate and multivariate logistic analyses were used to assess the relationship between maternal depressive symptoms (trichotomized to depression at both time points, at 1 time point, and at neither time point) and parental prevention practices, while controlling for a wide variety of sociodemographic variables.
Results: Mothers reporting a high level of depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale score >/=16) reported significantly poorer prevention practices for car seat use, covering electrical plugs, and having syrup of ipecac in the home. High depressive symptoms were also related to a lower likelihood of daily reading, but only for those mothers presently living with a male partner. Engagement in all prevention practices, except having syrup of ipecac in the home, were less likely if the mother reported high levels of depressive symptoms at both time points versus a single time point.
Conclusion: Maternal depression may significantly impede parental prevention practices. As maternal depression is a treatable condition, screening and treating this disorder may contribute to improvement in childhood prevention practices and ultimately child health.


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McLennan, John D.
Kotelchuck, Milton