Importance Children with known exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) or maternal depression are at risk for negative mental health outcomes as early as preschool age. Active ongoing surveillance for these risk factors can lead to earlier mental health intervention for children.
Objective To examine the association between parent reports of IPV and depressive symptoms within the first 3 years of a child's life with subsequent mental health conditions and psychotropic drug treatment.
Design Prospective cohort study linking parental IPV and depression with subsequent billing and pharmacy data between November 1, 2004, and June 7, 2012.
Setting Four pediatric clinics.
Participants A total of 2422 children receiving care from clinics that implemented the Child Health Improvement Through Computer Automation (CHICA) system.
Main Outcome Measures Any report of IPV and/or parental depressive symptoms from birth to age 3 years, mental health diagnoses made with International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision criteria, and any psychotropic drug treatment between ages 3 and 6 years.
Results Fifty-eight caregivers (2.4%) reported both IPV and depressive symptoms before their children were aged 3 years, 69 (2.8%) reported IPV only, 704 (29.1%) reported depressive symptoms only, and 1591 (65.7%) reported neither exposure. Children of parents reporting both IPV and depressive symptoms were more likely to have a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (adjusted odds ratio = 4.0; 95% CI, 1.5-10.9), even after adjusting for the child's sex, race/ethnicity, and insurance type. Children whose parents reported depressive symptoms were more likely to have been prescribed psychotropic medication (adjusted odds ratio = 1.9; 95%, CI 1.0-3.4).
Conclusions and Relevance Exposure to both IPV and depression before age 3 years is associated with preschool-aged onset of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; early exposure to parental depression is associated with being prescribed psychotropic medication. Pediatricians play a critical role in performing active, ongoing surveillance of families with these known social risk factors and providing early intervention to negate long-term sequelae.