Mothers who feel depressed are more likely to have 5-year-olds who are overweight, are less likely to eat breakfast, and they sleep and play outdoors less, a study says, posing the possibility that depression leads to parenting practices with less active engagement.
Scientists looked at 401 low-income mothers in New York City and their 5-year-old children; nearly a quarter of the mothers had depression symptoms.
The children of women with moderate to severe symptoms were more like to be obese or overweight while children of mildly depressed women were more likely to drink sweetened drinks and less likely to eat breakfast than the kids of mothers who were not depressed, the researchers wrote in the July-August issue of the journal Academic Pediatrics.
They found that mothers with mild depression had greater odds of having an overweight child than a woman who was not depressed, but the researchers said that was not a statistically significant association.
Scientists have previously looked at the effects of depression on older children, and several studies have found an association between maternal depression and increased weight. The paper did not address fathers.
The current study “begins to expand our current understanding of maternal depression and the mother-child relationship,” the researchers wrote. “In particular, our results found that maternal depressive symptoms are related to both child weight and several parenting practices that require active engagement by the parent, a quality that is known to be negatively affected by depression.”
The scientists said it’s not known whether their results can be generalized to other populations.