Maternal depression and the effects of an alternate caretaker
Loeb, Joanne Elizabeth
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This study investigated the predictors and effects of maternal depression in a sample of 180 Hispanic and Black mothers and their 12 month-old infants. Predictors analyzed included maternal ethnicity and age, the involvement of an alternate caretaker, living situation and parity. The impact of maternal depression was assessed by comparing groups of mothers classified according to the Center for Epidemiological Studies - Depression Scale as depressed or non-depressed. Subjects were compared in terms of their parenting behavior and the behavior of their infants in play interactions.;Findings regarding predictors of depression revealed that both the involvement of an alternate caretaker and mothers' living situation were significantly related to maternal depression. Mothers with help from an alternate caretaker and mothers who lived alone were least susceptible to manifesting depressive symptomotology.;Results of this study indicate that depressed mothers show disturbed patterns of behavior, characterized by intrusiveness and a lack of responsivity, in interactions with their infants. Their infants show minor disturbances in play behavior, which may become more dramatic in later years. The presence of an alternate caretaker alone has clear benefits for maternal behavior. If the alternate caretaker is free of depressive symptoms she also appears to have a positive impact on infant behavior. Recommendations for future research include the use of a longitudinal model in order to assess long-term effects of maternal depression. Also important would be a focus on interactional patterns, rather than on independent maternal and infant behaviors. In addition, while continuing to assess the intricacies of mother-infant interactions, future research should assess the contributions of significant individuals outside the primary dyad.