Stability of maternal depressive symptoms among urban, low-income, African American adolescent mothers

Fatima Ramos-Marcuse, Sarah E. Oberlander, Mia A. Papas, Scot W. McNary, Kristen M. Hurley, Maureen M. Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Background: Maternal depressive symptomatology is an important public health issue with negative consequences for both mothers and infants. Methods: This study examined prevalence and patterns of depressive symptoms among 181 urban, low-income, first-time, African American adolescent mothers recruited from urban hospitals following delivery. Follow-up evaluations were conducted at 6 (N = 148; 82%) and 24 (N = 147; 81%) month home visits. Depressive symptoms were measured with Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Results: Half of mothers (49%) had BDI scores >9 at baseline, with significant correlations between BDI scores across all visits (r = 0.28-0.50). Depressive symptom trajectories analyzed using group-based trajectory modeling revealed three trajectories of depressive symptoms: Low (41%), Medium (45%), and High (14%). The high depressive symptom group reported lower self-esteem, more negative life events, and lower parenting satisfaction than the low and moderate depressive symptoms groups. Limitations: Depressive symptoms were self-reported and not verified with a clinical interview. Findings are limited to urban, low-income, African American adolescent mothers and may not be generalizable to other populations. Conclusions: The high prevalence and relative stability of depressive symptoms through 2 years of parenting suggest the need for early identification and treatment of maternal depressive symptoms. Brief screening for maternal depressive symptoms conducted during pediatric well-child visits is a feasible and effective method for identifying mothers with depressive symptoms, however, screening measures can not differentiate between high and low levels of depressive symptoms. Brief intervention may be an effective treatment for mothers with mild symptoms of depression; mothers with moderate to severe symptoms may require more intensive intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-75
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent mother
  • African American
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Postpartum depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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