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Postnatal maternal depression is associated with poorer child emotional and behavioral functioning, but it is unclear whether this occurs following brief episodes or only with persistent depression. Little research has examined the relation between postnatal anxiety and child outcomes. The present study examined the role of postnatal major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptom chronicity on children's emotional and behavioral functioning at 24 months. Following postnatal screening mothers (n = 296) were identified as having MDD, GAD, MDD and GAD, or no disorder at 3 months postnatal; the average age was 32.3 (SD = 5.0), 91.9% self-identified as Caucasian, and 62.2% were married. Maternal disorder symptom severity was assessed by questionnaires and structured interview at 3, 6, 10, 14, and 24 months postpartum. At 24 months, child emotional negativity and behavior were assessed using questionnaires and by direct observation. Latent trait-state-occasion modeling was used to represent maternal disorder symptom chronicity; both stable trait and time-specific occasion portions of maternal symptomatology were examined in relation to child outcomes. Only the stable trait portion of maternal MDD and GAD symptom severity were related to maternal report of child behavior problems and higher levels of emotional negativity. Persistent maternal MDD, but not GAD, symptom severity was related to higher levels of child emotional negativity as measured observationally. These data suggest that children's behavior problems and emotional negativity are adversely affected by persistent maternal depression, and possibly anxiety. This has implications for interventions to prevent negative effects of postnatal psychopathology on children. (PsycINFO Database Record

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Psychol

Publication Date





50 - 62


Adult, Anxiety Disorders, Child Development, Child, Preschool, Depression, Postpartum, Depressive Disorder, Major, Emotions, Female, Humans, Interview, Psychological, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Models, Psychological, Models, Statistical, Mother-Child Relations, Problem Behavior, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Surveys and Questionnaires, Time Factors