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Maternal depression, intimate partner violence tied to adverse child development

08 Jul 2018

Depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence (IPV) in mothers appear to have adverse effects on nutritional and developmental outcomes in children, a study reports.

Researchers examined 1,031 children aged 18–36 months using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and anthropometric measures. Maternal exposure to IPV and depression were evaluated using the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey questionnaire and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-9, respectively.

Linear regression models showed mild depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 ≥5) in mothers to be associated with lower standardized mean differences (SMDs) for developmental outcomes in children, including motor skills (−0.14; p=0.023) and receptive communication (−0.19; p<0.009).

Meanwhile, maternal exposure to physical and sexual IPV correlated with lower SMDs for motor skills (−0.23; p<0.01), expressive communication (−0.23; p<0.01), receptive communication (−0.16; p=0.03) and cognitive development (−0.12; p=0.07).

Furthermore, generalized linear models revealed an association between maternal exposure to physical and sexual IPV and a heightened risk of child stunting (relative risk, 1.6; p<0.001).

The present data suggest that development and nutritional status of children are affected by multiple factors related to complex psychosocial relationships, researchers said. As such, children with developmental delays must be aptly referred for further evaluation, and physicians should be aware not only of physiologic ailments but also of psychosocial determinants of health, such as maternal depression and IPV, that might be affecting their growth and development.

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Tristan Manalac, 11 Jul 2018
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