Maternal depression in early childhood and child emotional and behavioral outcomes at school age: examining the roles of preschool childcare quality and current maternal depression symptomatology


Recent studies have shown that the association between maternal depression and child outcome can be moderated by children's experience of childcare (e.g., daycare) during early childhood (0–5 years). We also know that maternal depression in the child's early years has long-term associations with child development. However, the moderating role of childcare quality on long-term associations between maternal depression and child outcome has not been thoroughly investigated. This article examined longitudinal associations between probable maternal depression (PMD) during early childhood (0–5 years) and childcare quality on children’s emotional and behavioral development at the age of 7–8 years (N = 207). Childcare quality was evaluated through observations within the settings. PMD during early childhood was assessed using complementary information from interviews conducted with the mother and current maternal symptoms were assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Internalizing and externalizing behaviors were reported by the mother, father and the child at age 7–8 years. Results indicate that when mothers reported clinically relevant depression in early childhood, 7-8-year-old children demonstrate fewer behavioral problems if they attended a higher quality childcare setting. The moderating role of childcare quality remained after considering current maternal depression symptoms. Therefore, it is important to ensure high-quality childcare during early childhood to optimize child development.

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CH holds a salary award from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec Santé (FRQS). This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (MOP-79420, IHD-107532, and POH-120254). We thank participating families and childcare facilities for their contribution.

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Correspondence to Catherine M. Herba.

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Charrois, J., Côté, S.M., Paquin, S. et al. Maternal depression in early childhood and child emotional and behavioral outcomes at school age: examining the roles of preschool childcare quality and current maternal depression symptomatology. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 29, 637–648 (2020).

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  • Children’s behavioral and emotional development
  • Maternal depression
  • Longitudinal study
  • Childcare
  • Childcare quality
  • Early childhood