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Maternal Depressive Symptoms Timing: Child Cognitive Development Research Paper


The development of cognitive capacity in a child is often influenced by maternal depression. The early environment, a child is exposed to, especially the maternal care environment influences the brain and affects the cognitive functioning of the child. Depriving a child of maternal care at an early stage limits improvement even at a later stage, thus highlighting how sensitive an offspring can be when it comes to exposure during a particular stage in development. This paper is a summary of the study on this subject and its findings.

The Enumeration of the Article

The study sets out to establish and identify the linkage between the environment and brain development. The article borrows from early studies that the related rodents and their brain development are connected to the postnatal environment they live in (Evans et al., 2012).

Although the findings from the study of rodents indicate a positive outcome, this particular study determines whether the same can be said of human beings. It is not advisable to generalize the findings of this study to human beings. Instead, a complete study should be performed to be sure that the human brain, just like that of rodents, is susceptible to the external surroundings as it grows.

Before drawing a general conclusion, the researchers notice that brain development in primates begins even before the birth, unlike in rodents. Additionally, ethical and practical restraints limit the early manipulation of the environment in humans. A study closely relates to the manipulation of the environment in the case of rodents, but this time relating to humans is picked to determine the extent of the implications (Evans et al., 2012).

The article referes to the study conducted in the Romanian orphanages where comparisons are made between the children looked after in the local families and those fostered in the institutional care. The findings of the Romanian study identify the fact that children brought up in the foster care at an early age of four-and-a-half years already show significantly higher IQ scores. This is in contrast to their counterparts who grow up in the poor environment often provided by the institutional care (Evans et al., 2012).

There is a positive indication that fostering between 0 and 2 years of age is critical in as far as the IQ score is involved. However, the initial 2 years are not considered as part of the study’s truly sensitive period with regard to the cognitive development because the age of fostering remaines confounded by the duration spent during the institutional care (Evans et al., 2012).

The article outlines that depression in women occurs commonly during the period when they bear children (Evans et al., 2012). According to several longitudinal research studies quoted in the article, the children born of mothers who suffer postnatal depression (PND), register a poor cognitive measure score during the early stages of their development. In particular, this effect is more pronounced among the male offspring. The studies, however, fail to confirm whether these early effects on development continue unabated as the child matures.

A different study conducted in Cambridge concludes that the direct effects cannot be traced in children aged 5 years. Nevertheless, the scenario changed at the age of 16 when it is actually concluded that PND affects the boys’ school performance. The greatest influence comes about with regard to the mother-child interaction and effects of the early development.

Another study conducted in South London, which entails a comparatively more disadvantaged sample in terms of socioeconomic standing, discovers variations in IQ based on the maternal PND. The related findings show apparent positive relations at the ages of 11 and 16 (Evans et al., 2012).

Generally, the linkage between a child’s lower IQ and PND are more evident when considering the high risk samples as opposed to the low risk ones. These findings highlight the fact that social disadvantage plays a critical role in moderating the relationship involving postpartum depression, on one hand, and the child’s cognitive advancement, on the other hand. Adverse effects are depicted in children who grow up in the backgrounds that are disadvantaged socioeconomically.

With this general position adopted in the article, however, the authors are quick to note that depression patterns at the pregnancy time, as well as the initial postnatal years, differ noticeably among women. While some pregnant women may only encounter single episodes, others may face recurrent episodes, including the chronic depression.

Over half of the women, who register high scores in depression symptoms postnatally, will have registered high scores in the early or late pregnancy. Depression risk remains high after the initial postnatal year, resulting in many women experiencing chronic depression patterns. In return, the pregnancy depression extends to the child’s initial years of development (Evans et al., 2012).

Research Results

Maternal PND that occurs during the first year of a child’s birth shows no independent influence on a child’s cognitive function, particularly at the age of 8. The authors note that postnatal period shows no sensitivity in as far as maternal depression exposure is concerned. PND does not cause long lasting effects on the severity noted in the community samples used in the studies.

It is not true that PND suffered by children immediately after their birth dates would show the effects on cognitive power later at the age of 16. While an earlier study established these characteristic as part of its finding, the small sample size affects the result.

Both maternal socioeconomic circumstances and the child’s gender do not matter in the outcome of the results on cognitive power and PND (Evans et al., 2012). Additionally, there is no specific age, at which a child’s IQ power is noticeably affected by PND. Instead, all children who suffer PND exhibit virtually the same low IQ uniformly and throughout their lifetime.

Continued depression experienced by mothers after birth involves other risks that are not part of this study. This is why the children involved equally suffer from poor IQ stance. Among the other risk factors not involved in this study, one should consider common genetic vulnerability, as well as maternal antisocial lifestyle. These two factors have a significant potential of influencing a child’s cognitive development (Evans et al., 2012).

The presence of depression after birth is more critical in affecting a child’s IQ than the same condition occurring at some other time. Children who have suffered the most severe conditions of depression equally exhibit stronger effect on their overall IQ power. The happenings that occur during the pregnancy period affect postnatal development and the general health as well.

Personal Opinion on the Research

The findings of this research, which indicate that the environment in which a baby is brought up, affects its IQ power, are correct. Several of the findings covered in this article point to the same result that a poor environment of the mother and the baby in the initial years of birth often affects brain development. The direct proportionality of the depression period and extent of a child’s brainpower further highlights the significance of the research findings.

However, there are other factors, apart from mere postnatal depression, that affect brain development and brainpower of a child. While this research appears to indicate that PND is more critical in determining a child’s IQ, this fact is disputable and requires further research.

The article identifies other risk factors, including genetic issues and antisocial character on the part of the mother. However, the authors appear to consider the factors only as less sensitive ones. It is important to carry out more research in this area to verify the extent, to which PND influences brain development in children.


The development of a child’s brainpower is directly related to the pregnancy conditions of the mother and the postnatal depression that the child undergoes after birth. Children who brought up in comfortable life conditions show a more developed IQ comparing to those who grow up in a highly depressing environment. The same conditions are also notable in other animals, including rodents.

It is critical to point out that the human brain development begins in pregnancy, thus even depression suffered by a pregnant woman is likely to extend to the IQ of her offspring. These effects, however, do not manifest themselves in children with specific genders, or at some specific ages. Both male and female children will exhibit the same level of low IQ power as long as they encountered depression in their initial years of development. However, the poor IQ level is directly proportional to the extent to which a child is subjected to depression.


Evans, J., Melotti, R., Heron, J., Ramchandani, P., Wiles, N., Murray, L., & Stein, A. (2012). The timing of maternal depressive symptoms and child cognitive development: a longitudinal study. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(6). 632-640.

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IvyPanda. (2019, November 29). Maternal Depressive Symptoms Timing: Child Cognitive Development. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/maternal-depressive-symptoms-timing-child-cognitive-development/

Work Cited

"Maternal Depressive Symptoms Timing: Child Cognitive Development." IvyPanda, 29 Nov. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/maternal-depressive-symptoms-timing-child-cognitive-development/.

1. IvyPanda. "Maternal Depressive Symptoms Timing: Child Cognitive Development." November 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/maternal-depressive-symptoms-timing-child-cognitive-development/.


IvyPanda. "Maternal Depressive Symptoms Timing: Child Cognitive Development." November 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/maternal-depressive-symptoms-timing-child-cognitive-development/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Maternal Depressive Symptoms Timing: Child Cognitive Development." November 29, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/maternal-depressive-symptoms-timing-child-cognitive-development/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Maternal Depressive Symptoms Timing: Child Cognitive Development'. 29 November.

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