Maternal Mental Health and Child Nutritional Status and Cognitive Skills in a Developing Country
Sofya Krutikova, Institute For Fiscal Studies
Whitney Schott, University of Pennsylvania
Ian Bennett, University of Pennsylvania
Jere Behrman, University of Pennsylvania
We examine the link between maternal mental health and child development between infancy and age 8. While especially prevalent in poorer settings, most available evidence on effects of maternal depression is for samples from high-income countries. We analyse a pro-poor sample of children in Peru from the Young Lives study of childhood poverty. We find significant negative associations between maternal depressive symptomatology in infancy and subsequent height as well as probability of stunting. Further, depressive symptoms in later childhood (ages 5 and 8) is negatively associated with children’s receptive vocabulary, suggesting that even in later childhood exposure to maternal depression may adversely affect child cognitive development. Similar patterns persist in sibling and individual fixed effects specifications; the association between maternal stress and cognitive skills is particularly robust. We aim to utilise estimates from alternative models to identify what assumptions are needed to claim causal identification with this observational data.