To examine correlates of maternal depressive symptoms in a diverse, national sample of mothers whose kindergarten-aged children attended a Head Start program.
Design and Participants
A cross-sectional study of 5820 mothers was conducted during their child's kindergarten year.
Main Outcome Measure
Rates of maternal depressive symptoms were assessed by a validated 3-item depression screen.
The ethnic makeup of the group of mothers was non-Hispanic white, 46%; African American, 30%; Hispanic, 13%; American Indian, 6%; Asian American, 1%; and other, 4%. The mean (SD) age of the mothers was 30.1 (5.55) years, 57% were unemployed, and 68% had at least a high school diploma or had earned a high school equivalency diploma. More than 40% of the mothers screened positive for depressive symptoms. The strongest associations after controlling for several biological and demographic variables were maternal chronic health problem (adjusted odds ratio, 2.77; 95% confidence interval, 1.98-3.87), homelessness (adjusted odds ratio, 2.00; 95% confidence interval, 1.45-2.77), and lowest income level (adjusted odds ratio, 1.56; 95% confidence interval, 1.30-1.88).
Depressive symptoms were common among mothers of young children in this national sample. Interventions must be targeted at alleviating maternal depressive symptoms by decreasing poverty, providing support programs for single parents, and establishing accessible and affordable medical care for all parents and their children. Primary care physicians can play a key role in early identification and intervention.