Maternal Depressive Symptoms and the Risk of Overweight in Their Children

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To examine the association between maternal depressive symptoms during early childhood of their offspring and later overweight in the children. Only children (n = 1,090) whose weights and heights were measured at least once for three time points (grades one, three and six) from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study were included. Maternal depressive symptoms, defined as a Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) score of 16 or greater, were assessed using CES-D when the child was 1, 24, and 36 months. Childhood overweight was based on standardized height and weight measures taken during the interviews, and was defined according to appropriate CDC age- and sex-specific BMI percentiles. Generalized estimating equation was used to examine the impact of maternal depressive symptoms on the childhood overweight after adjusting for covariates. Compared to children of mothers without depression at any of the three time points, when children were one, 24 and 36 months of age, children of mothers with depression at all three time points were 1.695 times more likely to be overweight after adjusting for other child characteristics (95 % CI = 1.001–2.869). When further adjusted for maternal characteristics, children of mothers with depression at all three time points were 2.13 times more likely to be overweight (95 % CI = 1.05–4.31). Persistent maternal depressive symptoms may be associated with an increased risk of childhood overweight in their offspring. Children of mothers with depression may benefit from special attention in terms of obesity prevention.