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How does perinatal maternal mental health explain early social inequalities in child behavioural and emotional problems? Findings from the Wirral Child Health and Development Study

Rutherford, C., Sharp, H., Hill, J., Pickles, A. and Taylor-Robinson, D. (2019) How does perinatal maternal mental health explain early social inequalities in child behavioural and emotional problems? Findings from the Wirral Child Health and Development Study. PLoS ONE, 14 (5). e0217342. ISSN 1932-6203

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217342

Abstract/Summary

This study aimed to assess how maternal mental health mediates the association between childhood socio-economic conditions at birth and subsequent child behavioural and emotional problem scores. Analysis of the Wirral Child Health and Development Study (WCHADS), a prospective epidemiological longitudinal study of the early origins of child mental health (n = 664). Household income at 20-weeks gestation, a measure of socio-economic conditions (SECs) in pregnancy, was the main exposure. The outcome measure was externalising and internalising problems, as measured by the Child Behaviour Checklist at 5 years. We assessed the association of household income with child behavioural outcomes in sequential linear models adjusting for maternal mental health in the pre- and post- natal period. Children of mothers in more disadvantaged households had higher scores for externalising behaviour with a difference of 3.6 points comparing the most affluent to the most disadvantaged families (the socio-economic (SEC) gap). In our regression model adjusting for baseline confounders, comparing children of mothers in the most disadvantaged households to the least disadvantaged, we found that most disadvantaged children scored 45 percentage points (95% CI 9, 93) higher for externalising problems, and 42% of this difference was explained in the fully adjusted model. Adjusting for prenatal maternal depressive symptomology attenuated the SEC gap in externalising problems by about a third, rendering the association non-significant, whilst adjusting for pre- and post-natal maternal mental health attenuated the SEC gap by 42%. There was no significant relationship between household income and internalising problems. Social disadvantage is associated with higher child externalising behaviour problems score at age 5, and about 40% of this was explained by maternal perinatal mental health. Policies supporting maternal mental health in pregnancy are important to address the early emergence of inequalities in child mental health.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
ID Code:84101
Publisher:Public Library of Science

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