Maternal Sensitivity and Communication Styles: Mothers With Depression

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Abstract

Women living in poverty are at increased risk for depression, especially during their childbearing years. Whereas poverty has known adverse effects on children's cognitive, social, and communication development, maternal depression may place these children at additional risk of developmental delays. The maternal sensitivity of mothers with and without depression and its relationship to maternal–child communicative patterns was investigated. We analyzed cross-sectional data on a sample of 23 African American and Caucasian mother–child dyads (13 with and 10 without depression) living in poverty, drawn from a prospective cohort study. Maternal depression was identified using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule–IV based on diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.). Language samples of maternal–child interaction were analyzed using measures of maternal sensitivity, speech acts, and mother–child interchanges. Significant differences in maternal sensitivity, as well as different patterns of relationships between sensitive and communicative behaviors, were found between the groups. Early childhood professionals need to be aware of the effects maternal depression has on communicative interactions and children's development.

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