child care study found that chronicity of depressive symptoms over the first 3 years of life was related to maternal sensitivity, and maternal sensitivity moderated associations between maternal depressive symptom levels and 3-year-olds’ school readiness and verbal comprehension (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1999).
Among the strongest evidence for moderators of the association between maternal depression and academic functioning is exposure to violence (Silverstein et al., 2006). Essentially, in a large nationally representative sample of kindergarten-aged children, Silverstein et al. found that although depression in mothers was independently strongly associated with children’s lower reading, mathematics, and general knowledge, children who had also been exposed to violence scored even lower on those same skills. They also had more behavior problems compared with children who had been exposed to either maternal depression or violence alone. This pattern of findings was stronger for boys than for girls.
In a longitudinal study of offspring of depressed and nondepressed mothers followed annually from 6th through 12th grade, higher IQ was found to be protective of dropping out among offspring of never- or moderately depressed mothers but not for adolescents whose mothers had been chronically or severely depressed (Bohon, Garber, and Horomtz, 2007). Similarly, the presence of a male head of household was associated with lower rates of sexual behavior among adolescents of never- or moderately depressed mothers but not among adolescents whose mother’s depression was chronic or severe.
One of the strongest predictors of depression in adults and also in children is the presence of cognitive vulnerabilities. Thus, this has been of interest to researchers who study the children of depressed parents. Across multiple studies, depression in mothers and high levels of depressive symptoms in mothers are associated with children, as young as age 5, showing early signs of cognitive vulnerability to depression, including being more likely than controls to blame themselves for negative outcomes, having a more negative attributional style, hopelessness, pessimism, being less likely to recall positive self-descriptive adjectives, and having lower self-worth (Anderson and Hammen, 1993; Garber and Robinson, 1997; Hammen and Brennan, 2001; Hay and Kumar, 1995; Jaenicke et al., 1987; Murray et al., 2001). Adolescents with depressed mothers show early signs of cognitive vulnerability to depression, such as being more likely than other