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Mom's Depressive Symptoms Can Lead to Kids' Short Stature

9/10/2012 For Release: September 10, 2012

Past studies have shown that maternal depression can lead to poor developmental outcomes, including decreased growth in the first two years of life, but little is known of the effects on older children. In the study, “Impact of Maternal Depressive Symptoms on Growth of Preschool- and School-Aged Children,” in the October 2012 Pediatrics (published online Sept. 10), researchers examined data from the nationally representative U.S. Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort to determine if maternal depressive symptoms at 9 months postpartum negatively affected growth in children over 3 years of age. Compared with children of mothers without depressive symptoms, children of mothers with both mild to moderate or severe symptoms of depression had a 40 percent and 48 percent higher chance of being below the tenth percentile in height at 4 and 5 years of age, respectively. There were no significant deficits in weight at these ages. Maternal depressive symptoms can be linked to poor feeding practices (including shorter duration of breast-feeding and attachment issues), and increased stress in children, which may affect growth. Study authors conclude that early detection, treatment and prevention of postpartum maternal depressive symptoms may prevent childhood growth delays among preschool and school-aged children.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.


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