Symptoms of depression and anxiety during the child rearing period : A longitudinal study of Norwegian mothers
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- Psykologisk institutt 
AbstractDepression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems among women, with various negative impacts both for the women concerned and their families. Greater understanding of developmental trajectories of maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety during the child rearing period would have significant benefits for public health, informing prevention and treatment approaches.
The overall aim of this study was to explore symptoms of depression and anxiety among mothers in Norway over 13 years of the child rearing period (i.e. from toddlerhood to adolescence). With the use of a person-oriented approach, we wanted to explore the heterogeneity in symptoms and the characteristics and predictors of different subgroups of mothers.
Six trajectories based on maternal scores from six waves of data collection of symptoms of anxiety and depression were identified; a ‘No symptoms’ group with mothers without symptoms; a ‘Low’ group with mothers reporting low symptom levels; a ‘Moderate-low’ group with mothers reporting moderately low symptom levels; a ‘Moderate’ group with mothers with moderate symptoms; a ‘High-chronic’ group with mothers with overall high symptom levels; and a ‘Low-rising’ group with mothers starting with a low symptom level that increased over time. The mothers in the High-chronic symptom group differed from the other mothers in age, education, having paid work and living with a partner.
The overall stability of maternal temperament across six waves was examined, and its stability among the symptom groups identified through the latent profile analysis. The study confirmed that the stability of temperament, when based on the overall sample, was relatively high, but that this disguised important variations in temperament among different subgroups of individuals. Changes in temperament tended to parallel changes in symptoms. When we looked at predictors of group membership from time 1, temperamental distress, followed by child related stressors, were the strongest predictors of membership in a group with high symptoms over time compared to groups with low symptom levels. Stressors related to living conditions, and social support from partner and friends/family were also significant predictors. Extended knowledge of differences in developmental pathways of symptoms over a large time span will improve our understanding of the complexity and variation in symptoms of depression and anxiety. Knowledge that can help improve preventive initiatives targeting mothers will have huge public health benefits as it concerns whole families.
List of papers. Paper 2 is removed from the thesis due to copyright restrictions.
Paper 1: Skipstein, A., Janson, H., Stoolmiller, M. & Mathiesen, K.S. (2010). Trajectories of maternal symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 13-year longitudinal study of a population-based sample. BMC Public Health, 10:589. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-589Published under a Creative Commons Attribution License.
Paper 2: Skipstein, A., Sanson, A., Nærde, A., Karevold, E. & Mathiesen, K.S. (2011). Longitudinal Stability of Maternal Temperament: Differentiation by Trajectories of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms. (Submitted).
Paper 3: Skipstein, A., Janson, H., Kjeldsen, A., Nilsen, W. & Mathiesen, K.S. (2011). Trajectories of maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety over 13 years: The influence of stress, social support, and maternal temperament. (Submitted).Paper 3: Skipstein, A., Janson, H., Kjeldsen, A., Nilsen, W. & Mathiesen, K.S. (2012). Trajectories of maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety over 13 years: The influence of stress, social support, and maternal temperament. Submitted version. Published as: BMC Public Health. 2012 Dec 27;12:1120. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-589Published under a Creative Commons Attribution License.