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Degree Name

DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)


Public Health

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

James L. Anderson

Committee Members

William T. Dalton III, Xuefeng Liu


Overweight and obesity among children and youth in the United States is a serious public health concern. The longitudinal relationships between maternal depression and childhood overweight and obesity were examined using data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD SECCYD). A national cohort of 1,384 children was followed from birth to adolescence and longitudinal data collected on multiple variables, including child weight and height, maternal depression, maternal influence, and family context. Maternal Depression was assessed by the Center of Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and defined as a score of 16 or greater. Overweight and obesity were defined according to the recommended BMI age- and sex-specific percentiles. Maternal depression was assessed when the child was 1 month old, 36 months, and in grade 1. Overweight and obesity status was assessed at 36 months, grade 1, grade 3, and grade 6. The effect of changes or persistence in the pattern of maternal depression for different childhood age points on the development of childhood overweight and obesity was evaluated. A variety of statistical methods were used including t-test, ANOVA, multiple linear regression, multiple logistic regression, and generalized estimation equation (GEE). Results: After adjustment for confounding, compared with mothers with no depression at child's age of 1 month, 36 months, and in grade 1, mothers with depression at 1 or 2 of those time points had a 45% higher risk for childhood overweight and obesity at grade 3 (OR= 1.45, 95% CI= 1.01-2.07). For mothers with depression at all 3 time points, there was an even greater increase in risk at grade 3 (OR= 2.25, 95% CI= 1.05-4.84) and grade 6 (OR= 3.36, 95% CI= 1.46-7.77). Conclusion: Maternal depression is associated with childhood overweight and obesity. Child overweight and obesity intervention efforts may benefit from identifying strategies to improve maternal mental health status, including depression.

Document Type

Dissertation - restricted


Copyright by the authors.