Child care helps depressed moms' kids
June 13th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Child care helps depressed moms' kids

Spending time in child care may help protect children of depressed moms from developing behavioral and psychological problems, according to new research in the journal Pediatrics.

Experts know that when mothers are depressed it can be difficult or challenging for them to parent and that their children often show signs of distress. Some young people act out, perhaps showing anger and aggression, others internalize their feeling taking on their mother's sadness or depression.

This new study looked at more than 400 mothers and their children in Australia, and found that at age 2, as little as half a day of child care a week appears to protect infants and toddlers from exhibiting behavioral problems at age 5.

"This is the first study that really looks at child care as a protective factor not only at the time that it [maternal depression] is going on, but also for the future," explains pediatrician Marian Earls with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

When mothers had ongoing or recurring symptoms of depression, their children were twice as likely to act out and four times as likely to be sad or depressed themselves.

"There are several ways in which child care may buffer some of the effects of maternal depression on child behavior. First, some respite from the maternal role for mothers with depression may help the mothers fulfill their parenting role when they are with their toddler," explains study author Lynne Giles, Ph.D. at the School of Population Health and Clinical Practice at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

Other experts say this premise makes sense.

"Mom gets a break and sometimes a little bit of break gives you some energy. It's tiring parenting a child all day, and if you're depressed even more tiring," explains Nadine Kaslow, professor and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Emory University.

And though the researchers were not able to grade the level of child care provided, they suggest that the time away from home helped affirm the children.

"Toddlerhood is a time when social interactions are very important developmentally. Mothers with depression may be less able to engage in social opportunities for their toddler. So child care may also help with socialization for toddlers of depressed mothers," says Giles.

"What they get, probably, is more positive role modeling, it {the child care setting] is more pleasurable, more fun. There are happy faces and more fun activities and they may be getting more positive feedback," explains Kaslow.

Also early child care programs often get parents involved, engaging them in activities and teaching them new ways to communicate and play with their child.

The researchers say children seemed to get benefits when attending formal child care, defined as from a child care center, nanny or family day care as opposed to care in the home of a relative or friend

According to the study, about a quarter of the moms with 18 months olds and one in five mothers of 3-year-olds show signs of depression.

Experts point out that the results of this study need to be replicated and that putting a toddler in child care may serve as another tool to help mothers and children alike deal with the repercussions of depression.

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Lindalou

    Taking care of small children can be depressing because you're so isolated. Other adults get to go out and be with other adults, have adult conversations, have goals for the day, get a paycheck which makes you feel appreciated. Getting out of the house, meeting up with other moms, volunteering, any thing to make you feel valued is a big help. Been there, done that. Its a tremendous boost to your self esteem to feel useful.

    June 13, 2011 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. KR

    Just one more reason not to have children...

    June 13, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Melanie

    yes, let's have children and ship them off to someone else to raise. Perfect sense. Then we turn into Casey Anthony and end up killing them when they are actually home

    June 13, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LS

      They are talking about 1/2 day a week how is that allowing someone else to raise your kids? Do you have kids? If so are you saying you have never hired a baby-sitter or set up a play date where you aren't with them? That must make for a fun date night with your husband/boyfriend. Everyone needs help now and then. Your Anthony comment doesn't make any sense. Thousands of children are in daycare and they aren't being killed off for it.

      June 13, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • Chloe

      Really? I'm a stay at home mom and that's offends even me. I'm lucky enough to have the resources available to stay home, but not everyone does. Besides, I am battling depression myself and seriously considering childcare a couple times a week. If a bit of childcare makes for a healthier, happier mom, what's the problem?

      June 13, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • ali


      I highly recommend it, even if not for your own sake, but for your son's/daughter's. Many stay at home moms are holier than thou when it comes to someone else's decision to put their kids in childcare (not all of them, I loved being a stay at home mom, but never even thought to criticize others whose children were in daycare). I stayed at home with my daughter for 2 years and was quite hesitant to put her in daycare. I am now back at home for the summer before my semester starts up again and to keep my spot at her daycare, I am keeping her there. Every morning I ask her if she wants to stay home with Mommy, or go to daycare and most days she wants to go and play! She has so much fun, and the daycare always has new and exciting activities planned with the kids (many of which I can't do at home). There is nothing wrong with kids going out and having a regular peer group (in fact, even if I decided to come back home permanently, I would keep part time daycare so she could continue to see her friends) and many kids benefit. I hope that you find a good balance and the resources needed to deal with your depression.

      And as for having children and having "other people raising them..." Please! At night (from 4:00 on), my husband and I do nothing, but play with our daughter, go on walks, go the park and read stories. We also spend our weekends doing family activities that we all enjoy.

      It is a personal choice to be a stay at home mom, many people don't have that option, but it is no one's place to judge someone for those choices. And as for bringing up Caylee Anthony, that has no place on this board. That comparison makes no sense and it is shameful that someone would make that connection. Whatever happened to that poor little girl had nothing to do with her being placed in childcare. This is a public board and you can say what you want, but I think what parents need is support rather than judgement. We make what we feel are the best decisions to keep our kids safe, healthy and happy... Just because someone does that in a way that differs from you doesn't make it wrong... Just different. Remember that next time.

      June 13, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
    • ali

      I should make clear that only that first paragraph was intended for Chloe, the rest is my response to all of the "Daycare is evil" people on this forum!

      June 13, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
    • Working Mom

      Your comment shows your level of intelligence. I work full time and have two beautiful children. They both go to daycare. I love my children and I raise my children, daycare is a choice made by parents, they find one that suits the style to which they are raising their kids. I am very active, much to my daycare providers dismay, in the way my child is raised. I am at his daycare daily discussing my children and spending time with them and the care providers. We discuss everything. They provide the care at my direction. My children are happy and well behaved because of the decisions I make on their behalf. How dare you issue a blanket statement that basically says I'm just shipping my kids off as is every other parent who chooses daycare. I could have had a provider come to my home to care for the both of them, however I believe social interaction at their age is very beneficial. Grow a brain!

      June 13, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse |
    • ali

      @ Working Mom

      I agree 100%!

      About everything, but especially about well-behaved children. That's something I didn't mention above. I find that a lot (once again, not all) kids of stay at home moms to be quite rude and unruly, especially those without any sort of organized activities or siblings. Having that social interaction is so valuable in teaching kids to play nicely with others, to learn about sharing, etc. And I definitely agree that It really is about finding the "Right" daycare that compliments one's style of parenting. I love love love our daughter's daycare, they also have an open door policy for parents so I quite often (especially lately now that I'm on a break) head down and play with the kids. Even if I decided to be a stay at home mom again, I would feel extremely guilty about pulling her out of daycare completely, because she has such a blast!

      June 13, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Melanie, I never cease to be amazed at the level of stupidity I see on these forums. Thanks for not letting me down!

      Please, if you ever have kids-DO give them to someone else to raise. Preferably someone who can read.

      June 13, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • Alexis

      That is awful, Chloe. I'm a stay at home Mom and am battling postpartum depression. I mainly don't have ANY help during the day and am relieved when my fiance gets home and can take her for a few hours. While I shower, and do things that a normal human being should do. When my baby is old enough to go to childcare it'll be for maybe 3 days or maybe 2 days for just acouple of hours; if I can stand it. Its hard enough for me to leave her on the weekends to work part-time. Bite your tounge, child. >:|

      June 27, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
    • Alexis

      Not Chloe* Sorry. I ment Melanie^.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
  4. Lady Gaganot

    "It takes a village to raise a child" This saying goes a long way to promote healthy and happy lifestyles for both the parents and children. Of course you have to have children KR or else you ass will never exist to write this stupid comment.

    June 13, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. nomer

    I stayed home with my daughter for a few months and loved it! However, when I went back to work, I was actually a better mom! I was not depressed at all, and I feel for those moms who are. I hope the ones who are depressed are seeking help! Being is a mom is the best gift ever, but it is lonely too.

    June 13, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jeanne

    GREAT STUDY – I think the "help" to the family could definitly be two-fold. As the article and other commente's have stated – having the child(ren) in daycare helps the Mom, opens up dialogue for behavior and/or coping skills with energetic toddlers, get's Mom out of isolation and also simply gives her a break. But I think just as importantly, having a child of any age involeved in a program, a class, daycare, preschool, lessons....any of thos "out of the house" sorts of things – gives the child a really great look at (and learning about) how other adults act, communicate, what the can offer the child – ie: respit, help verbally or phisically, etc, and it's simply a great learning tool for the child to gain insight into what happens outside of their families beliefs, cmmunications, rituals, etc...Yeah – it's a good thing.

    June 13, 2011 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amado

      i don't know about the us but in the uk things like pneauts are banned in fact there is so much you cannot give kids e.g. breasticks because of their shape can cause a chocking hazard.. most rice caeks they have salt the list is endless even in the uk gram crakers (digestives) are a no no. my children have all gone through day care 1 with an allergy of milk her self and they were fantastic they had an allergy list in every room and were happy for me to bring my own snacks. this is something i wouldn't overly worry abot soec as you have no kids with allergies

      September 13, 2012 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
  7. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    The silliness of people who say that having a child in daycare means that someone else is "raising your child" are ridiculous. Children aren't being raised by someone else when they're in school six to seven hours a day, are they? Of course not. If a woman is happiest working and having her children in a high-quality day care setting, great! There's no evidence that it is in any way detrimental to a child's development. And in some cases, a child will get more stimulation and positive interaction at a day care than he/she would at home with a parent who is depressed.

    June 13, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Lily

    I've been a 'stay at home mom'. I've worked (part time = 20 – 30 hours per week) and my son was in day care.
    And, I've been a 'nanny' for two families.
    Children need socialization ! If you are a SAHM, you still need/must get those children out socializing w/others.
    Least expensive way to do this – get out to a park/playground and library programs. Just get out there. Socializing
    is good for the Moms and the children !

    June 13, 2011 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tina

      When you're really depressed, you have no interest in getting "out there" and socializing with other moms.

      I'm not depressed, and I personally hate park playdates and mommy groups, which is why I don't do them. They're not for everybody. I'd so much rather send my child to a couple hours of high-quality childcare so I can get things accomplished that are impossible for me to do w/children around (anything from an OB's or dentist's appointment to filing my taxes). Hanging out at a park and "socializing" actually makes some of us anxious and nervous b/c our minds are racing to all the things we're not getting done while we're sitting on a park bench. Besides, park playdates are *not* adult time. The point is that people need a *break* from their kids. The last thing they need is to be around other people who come to the gathering with even more kids in tow! Now you're surrounded by your own kids plus someone else's when what you really needed was a short break from children altogether! Not everyone feels this way, but it's good to see psychologists acknowledge that a lot of women do and that it's perfectly normal. Better for people to sign their kids up for some early childcare than resort to a "mother's little helper" type of self-medication or worse.

      June 27, 2011 at 22:59 | Report abuse |
  9. jennifer

    good article

    June 22, 2011 at 05:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. kidsweartoday

    As daycare is a parent's choice, it perfectly works for those who make the choice. There are many ways in which a parent can bond with their children. Giving them quality time when the parent gets home from work is good enough. Spending time with them out at plays is great too. Molding a child to be successful and responsible when they grow up is an important aspect. As a guide to the children, parents play the biggest role in shaping a child's destiny, and building their self esteem too, even their way of dressing.

    June 22, 2011 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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    If you live near or around the Chatsworth ca. Area, call us for your childcare needs, we have been ranked the #1 in the San Fernando Valley.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Curtis

    I like the report it helps when others help mothers with their children. Online Preschool Games–My kids can't get enough! http://tiny.cc/ABCmouse

    January 6, 2012 at 02:03 | Report abuse | Reply
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    March 28, 2012 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
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