Children & Families

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Mothers' Depression: Maternal depression not only affects mothers, it can also have negative consequences for their young children, according to a study.

Children of depressed mothers were more likely than those whose mothers reported no depression to perform poorly on school-readiness and language tests and to be less cooperative when asked to clean up toys, the researchers found.

But children whose mothers were more sensitive--meaning that they were respectful and supportive of their children--performed better on the tests and were more helpful, even if the mothers also reported that they were depressed.

Conducted by researchers who are part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care, the report was published in this month's issue of the journal Developmental Psychology.

The team of researchers, representing more than 20 universities, began observing the families when the children were a month old. This particular study focuses on results at age 3.

Of the 1,215 mothers in the study, 55 percent were described as "never depressed" during their children's first three years, 38 percent were "sometimes depressed," and the rest were "chronically depressed."

More information can be found on the institute's World Wide Web site at s/early_child_care.htm.

Foster Children: Having a mentor can help foster children build positive relationships with their peers and avoid dangerous behavior, such as drug and alcohol use, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Using data from a national study of 1,000 urban adolescents involved in the Big Brothers-Big Sisters program, the researchers looked for changes in behavior among the adolescents 18 months after they were randomly assigned to mentors.

The study found decreases in drug and alcohol use for those who had mentors, compared with youths who did not.

However, the researchers, led by Jean E. Rhodes, a professor of psychology, also concluded that the length of the mentoring relationship made a big difference.

When the relationship ended within six months, increases in problem behavior were seen. When mentoring lasted between six and 12 months, there were small improvements. But the biggest gains in academic, social, and other forms of behavior came when the mentoring relationships lasted 12 to 18 months.

--Linda Jacobson [email protected]

Vol. 19, Issue 5, Page 7

Published in Print: September 29, 1999, as Children & Families

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