Over 50% of mothers in rural Mexico have high depressive symptoms, and their children’s health and development are likely to be negatively affected. A critical question is whether children vary in their vulnerability to the effects of high maternal depressive symptoms according to their indigenous ethnicity, maternal education, or household wealth. Our sample included 4442 mothers and 5503 children from an evaluation of Mexico’s social welfare program. Maternal depressive symptoms were assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale, and child behavior was measured using an adapted version of the Behavior Problems Index (BPI). Multiple linear regression models were used to explore the associations between maternal depressive symptoms and child behavior problems, and the heterogeneity of associations by indigenous ethnicity, maternal education, and household assets. We found that having greater maternal depressive symptoms was significantly associated with having a child with more behavior problems (β
= 0.114, p
< 0.0001, [95% CI 0.101, 0.127]), in adjusted models. In tests of heterogeneity, the association between maternal depressive symptoms and child behavior problems was strongest in households with indigenous ethnicity, low maternal education, or in households with fewer assets. These results strengthen the case for effective mental health interventions in low- and middle-income countries, particularly among the most vulnerable families where mothers and children appear to be at the greatest risk.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited