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Perinatal depression and infants’ language development at 18 months


Tu,  Hsing-Fen       
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
2Department of Psychology, Uppsala University;
Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Uppsala University;

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Tu, H.-F., Forssman, L., Fransson, E., & Skalkidou, A. (2023). Perinatal depression and infants’ language development at 18 months. Talk presented at 2nd FinnBrain International Congress on Prenatal and Early Life Stress. Turku, Finland. 2023-06-07 - 2023-06-09.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-1C14-E
Perinatal depression increases the risk of poor maternal-infant interaction and lower levels of maternal-sensitive parenting, which have been reported as plausible predictors of language development. The main aim of this study was to examine the longitudinal associations between perinatal depression and infant language development at 18 months old.

Data from a Swedish population-based longitudinal cohort (U-BIRTH) were included in the analysis. Overall, our final analysis included 2045 full-term and first-born mother-infant dyads (1041 boys). Perinatal depressive symptoms were measured using Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale across pregnancy (17 weeks and 32 weeks) to six months postpartum (6 weeks and 6 months). Infant’s language was assessed using Language Development Survey at the age of 18 months.

The results of Pearson’s correlation with Benjamini-Hochberg correction show that depressive symptoms at 6 months postpartum are negatively correlated with language development at 18 months of age (r = -0.046, p = 0.049). Results from linear regression, including maternal variables (education, pregnancy length) and infant’s sex, show that the negative association between depressive symptoms at 6 months postpartum and language development at 18 months remains significant (b = -7.34, p = 0.037; Model A (F(4, 1724) = 31.53, R2 = 0.07, p <.001). When examining perinatal trajectory, Model B (F(5, 1792) = 25.34, R2 = 0.06, p <.001)) shows that infants of mothers with depressive symptoms throughout pregnancy and postpartum have a higher risk of language problems (b = -2.80, p = 0.047) than infants of healthy mothers, or mothers with depressive symptoms during pregnancy or postpartum. Furthermore, our data suggest that the negative impact of perinatal depression might affect girls more than boys.

In line with previous literature, our results support the assumption that perinatal depression might be related to an infant’s language delay in the first years of life.