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Maternal depression is prevalent, and puts children at risk. Little
evidence addresses whether treatment for maternal depression is sufficient
to improve child outcomes. An experiment was conducted testing whether
psychotherapeutic treatment for mothers, suffering from major depression
in the postpartum period, would result in improved parenting and child
outcomes. Participants included depressed women randomly assigned to
interpersonal psychotherapy (n = 60) or to a waitlist (n
= 60), and a nondepressed comparison group (n = 56). At 6 months,
depressed mothers were less responsive to their infants, experienced more
parenting stress, and viewed their infants more negatively than did
nondepressed mothers. Treatment affected only parenting stress, which
improved significantly but was still higher than that for nondepressed
mothers. Eighteen months later, treated depressed mothers still rated
their children lower in attachment security, higher in behavior problems,
and more negative in temperament than nondepressed mothers. Initial
response to treatment did not predict reduced risk for poor child
outcomes. Early maternal negative perceptions of the child predicted
negative temperament and behavior problems 18 months after treatment.
Treatment for depression in the postpartum period should target the
mother–infant relationship in addition to the mothers'
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