Increased child hospitalizations are associated with the mother's mental state and confidence in parenting
Research Activities, May 2012, No. 381
Studies show that depressed mothers generally have low confidence in their ability to parent (parenting self-efficacy). Children of mothers who suffer from depression are more likely to have higher rates of hospitalization, including from potentially preventable causes such as dehydration and asthma flareups. A new study looked at maternal parenting self-efficacy as a possible mediator between maternal depression and child hospitalizations.
The researchers analyzed data from 432 mother-child pairs. These were mostly minority women living in low-income urban areas. Each mother was interviewed at 6 months, 1 year, and then 2 years after their first child's birth. More than one-third of the mothers had given birth to a second child by the time their first child was 2 years old. During these interviews, the mothers were asked questions to determine their level of depressive symptoms and self-efficacy.
After 1 year, 28.8 percent of mothers had increased depressive symptoms. At 2 years, 46.5 percent of depressed women still had symptoms. Both elevated symptoms of depression and lower maternal self-efficacy were individually associated with increased child hospitalizations. When these two factors were combined, the researchers identified self-efficacy as a mediator between maternal depression and child hospitalizations. Clinicians may wish to assess maternal self-efficacy during medical encounters, particularly in those mothers with depressive symptoms. Depressed mothers with low self-efficacy can be given parenting skills and also improve the lives of both the mother and her children, suggest the researchers. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00044).
See "Self-efficacy as a mediator between maternal depression and child hospitalizations in low-income urban families," by Margaret L. Holland, Ph.D., Byung-Kwang Yoo, M.D., Ph.D., Helena Temkin-Greener, Ph.D., and others in Maternal and Child Health 15, pp. 1011-1019, 2011.