Depressed Mothers: They Don't Always Look as Bad as They Feel

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The relationship of maternal depression to self-report and observational data was investigated in a sample of depressed (n = 30) and nondepressed women (n = 32) and their 3-year-old children. Depression characteristics – (diagnostic subtype/remission status) were related to maternal self-report and mother—child Interactions.


Mothers completed standardized questionnaires and the dyad was observed in the laboratory. Observations were rated for maternal behavior and child attachment.


There were no differences between depressed and nondepressed groups on observational measures; depressed mothers' self-report was consistently more negative. Within the depressed group, women with more severe/chronic depression showed behavioral differences but were no different from less depressed women on self-report measures. Women in remission improved for self-report, but not for observational data.


The consequences of maternal depression vary depending on type of depression, severity, chronicity, current mood status, and on how the impact of depression is measured. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolssc. Psychiatry, 1996, 35(3):289–298

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