Mothers’ depressive symptoms in infancy and children’s maladjustment in early grade school : the role of children’s sustained attention and executive function

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2015-05

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Using longitudinal data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (N=1,367), the current study examined the role of children’s sustained attention and executive function in promoting their adjustment difficulties in early grade school as mothers’ depressive symptoms increase in infancy. Findings demonstrated that, when mothers’ depressive symptoms were high in infancy, their children were at risk for poor sustained attention and executive function prior to school entry partly due to mothers’ tendencies to become insensitive. Children’s poor executive function in turn mediated the relation of mothers’ depressive symptoms in infancy to children’s poor cognitive and socioemotional adjustment in 3rd grade, independent of poor sustained attention. Findings also suggested the unique role of mothers’ depressive symptoms in infancy in predicting children’s poor sustained attention, but not executive function. Overall, this study demonstrates the potential role of children’s sustained attention and executive function in understanding the developmental risks children of depressed mothers face in early grade school.

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