Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Trajectories of maternal depressive symptoms over her child's life span: Relation to adrenocortical, cardiovascular, and emotional functioning in children

Brooks B. Gumpa1 c1, Jacki Reihmana1, Paul Stewarta1, Ed Lonkya1, Tom Darvilla1, Douglas A. Grangera2 and Karen A. Matthewsa3

a1 State University of New York at Oswego

a2 Pennsylvania State University

a3 University of Pittsburgh


Maternal depression has a number of adverse effects on children. In the present study, maternal depressive symptoms were assessed (using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale) when their child was 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 4.25 years, 6 years, 7 years, 8 years, and 10 years of age. At 9.5 years of age, children's (94 females, 82 males) depressive symptoms as well as cardiovascular and cortisol levels during baseline and two psychologically stressful tasks were measured. Using multilevel modeling, maternal depressive symptom trajectories were considered in relation to their child's adrenocortical and cardiovascular responses to acute stress. Our goal was to determine maternal depressive symptom trajectories for children with elevated cardiovascular and cortisol reactivity to acute stress and elevated depressive symptoms. In general, those mothers with chronically elevated depressive symptoms over their child's life span had children with lower initial cortisol, higher cardiac output and stroke volume in response to acute stress, lower vascular resistance during acute stress tasks, and significantly more depressive symptoms at 9.5 years of age. These results are discussed in the context of established associations among hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis dysregulation, depression, and cardiovascular disease.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Brooks B. Gump, Department of Psychology, 414 Mahar Hall, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126; E-mail: