Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Oral Session III: Maternal Depression and Adolescents’ Unhealthy Behaviors
Wednesday, 24/Nov/2021:
11:45am - 12:00pm

Session Chair: Moritz M. Daum, University of Zurich
Location: Room 251 | 252


Maternal Depression and Adolescents’ Unhealthy Behaviors

Laura Bechtiger1, Annekatrin Steinhoff1, Jessica M. Dollar2, Susan D. Calkins2, Susan P. Keane2, Lenka Shriver2, Laurie Wideman2, Lilly Shanahan1

1University of Zurich, Switzerland; 2University of North Carolina at Greensboro, United States of America

Maternal depression is an established risk factor for children’s emotional and behavioral adjustment. Less is known about its association with children’s health behavior, even though the family context and parental behaviors are an important socialization context for health behaviors. Mothers suffering from symptoms of depression (e.g., apathy, anhedonia) may be less likely to engage in health-promoting activities for themselves and their child. Adolescence is an important developmental period for establishing positive health behaviors such as an active lifestyle, healthy diet, regular sleep rhythms, and substance use habits. Yet, unhealthy behaviors are highly prevalent during this developmental period. Though some preliminary evidence suggests that maternal depression is associated with their children’s health behavior, it is limited to the childhood period and mostly cross-sectional studies. Our study leverages a longitudinal community study (N=213) to examine whether maternal depressive symptoms in early childhood (ages 2-5), middle childhood (ages 7-10) and adolescence (age 15) are linked with later self-reported adolescent unhealthy behavior (i.e., low physical activity, sedentary behavior, poor sleep, unhealthy diet, and smoking at ages 16 and 17), and whether there are sex differences in these associations. Preliminary analyses suggest that maternal depression in both middle childhood and adolescence, but not in early childhood, are associated with more adolescent unhealthy behaviors. Associations were stronger for female than male adolescents. Future analyses will consider depressive symptoms of the adolescents to examine whether the association between maternal depression and adolescent unhealthy behavior may be attributed to the intergenerational transmission of depression.