MONDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- Young children whose moms
suffer from depression are at heightened risk for behavioral
troubles, but a new study shows that day care may help ease the
The effect was seen even when kids were placed in day care for
as little as three hours a week, the Australian researchers
However, the benefit was only seen with formal child care, not
informal care such as leaving the child with a relative for the
day, according to a study in the July issue of
"It's good news," said Dr. Pete Richel, chief of pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. "Moms have an incredible job to do. Any break from that constant care is very valuable," said Richel, who was not involved in the study.
Maternal depression, which is fairly common among new mothers,
has long been recognized as a risk factor for behavioral problems
in children up to the age of 5.
In the new study, led by Dr. Lynne Giles of the University of
Adelaide, close to 450 mothers were assessed for depression. They
also answered questions about their child's health and the number
of hours the child spent in day care.
The offspring of mothers who had recurrent depression -- but not
occasional depression -- when their children were 2 and 3-1/2 years
old did have an increased risk of behavioral problems.
But moms with recurrent depression who took advantage of child
care even half a day per week saw the risk of their children's
Quality is probably an issue here, said another expert, Myrna
Weissman, professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia
University, New York City.
"This study looked at a structured day-care program, so I think it is a question of the quality of the day care," she said. "It's promising that quality care can have such a good impact."
On the other hand, Richel added, "day care for toddlers doesn't
have to be preschool and 'We-want-to-be-in-Harvard-when-we're-18.'
Children are children, and they need to play and be nurtured. That
provides a break for mom to relax, let loose and not be in
The findings are also an argument for repeated screening for
depression in new mothers, said the authors, from the University of
Adelaide in Adelaide, South Australia.
But the study did have some limitations, other experts pointed
It did not, for instance, discuss the issue of the expense of
day care, which, said Richel, can be "pretty doggone costly."
It also did not include single mothers, who are the most
strapped for resources, Weissman pointed out.
Find out more about maternal depression at the
New York State Department of Health.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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