The joint contribution of maternal history of early adversity and adulthood depression to socioeconomic status and potential relevance for offspring development Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: We examined the interactive effects of maternal childhood adversity and later adulthood depression on subsequent socioeconomic status (SES). METHODS: Our community sample ranged from 230 to 243 mothers (across measures) drawn from a prospective, longitudinal cohort study. Maternal childhood adversity scores were derived using an integrated measure derived from the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and the Parental Bonding Index (PBI). Maternal depression was measured in the prenatal period with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). SES measures included maternal highest level of education and family income as obtained prenatally. RESULTS: The analyses yielded significant interaction effects between maternal childhood adversity and prenatal depression that predicted income, prenatally. Women who reported higher levels of childhood adversity combined with higher levels of self-reported depressive symptoms were significantly more likely to live in low SES environments. Results also showed that level of education was predicted by childhood adversity independent of maternal symptoms of depression. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that SES is influenced by a life course pathway that begins in childhood and includes adversity-related mental health outcomes. Since child health and development is influenced by both maternal mental health and SES, this pathway may also contribute to the intergenerational transmission of the risk for psychopathology in the offspring. The results also emphasize the importance of studying potential precursors of low SES, a well-documented environmental risk factor for poor developmental outcomes in the offspring.


  • Bouvette-Turcot, Andrée-Anne
  • Unternaehrer, Eva
  • Gaudreau, Hélène
  • Lydon, John E
  • Steiner, Meir
  • Meaney, Michael J

publication date

  • January 2017

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