Maternal Mental Health and Child Health and Nutrition

Karen McCurdy, Kathleen S. Gorman, Tiffani S. Kisler and Elizabeth Metallinos-Katsaras

in The Oxford Handbook of Poverty and Child Development

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199769100
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Maternal Mental Health and Child Health and Nutrition

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  • Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology



In this chapter, the family stress model provides a framework for exploring the relationships between maternal mental health and child health and nutrition, in the context of poverty. Specifically, we examine what is known about the links between maternal depression and anxiety with the increased rates of overweight, nutritional deficiencies, food insecurity, and overall poorer health observed among low-income children. We then explore how maternal psychological distress may impact three parenting practices linked to these child health domains: (1) health-related parenting behaviors, such as monitoring the child's access to television; (2) parental feeding strategies, such as how long the mother breast-feeds; and (3) food-related coping strategies, such as the need to shop in a variety of stores for the best food bargains. We conclude with three key directions to advance our understanding of the pathway from maternal mental health to child outcomes.

Keywords: maternal depression; maternal anxiety; child obesity; food insecurity; parenting behaviors; coping strategies; poverty

Article.  16004 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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