January 01, 2014

Report Links Maternal Depression and Child Abuse and Neglect

Alanna Pawlowski

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

A new Urban Institute report focuses on the link between maternal depression and child abuse and neglect. The report is based on the outcomes of a roundtable of policymakers, researchers, advocates, practitioners and others. 

The report presents findings on maternal depression and suggests system and policy changes. It also discusses opportunities in the Affordable Care Act and other legislation to promote screening for maternal depression and finds better communication is needed between child welfare and health care professionals to take advantage of mental health services for mothers. 

Key findings:

  • Eleven percent of infants born into poverty have a mother with severe depression; 41 percent have a mother with some form of depression. 

  • Infants born into poverty with depressed mothers are more likely than their peers with nondepressed mothers to be exposed to domestic violence and substance abuse.  

  • Compared to higher-income mothers, low-income mothers reported experiencing more severe depression to the extent that interfered with their daily life. 

  • Uninsured low-income mothers with depression were less likely to receive treatment for their major depression than insured mothers with depression; those on Medicaid had similar treatment rates to those with private or other insurance.                                    

—Alanna Pawlowski, CLP Contributor