Effects of maternal depression on maternal responsiveness and infants' expressive language abilities

Ruth Brookman*, Marina Kalashnikova, Penny Levickis, Janet Conti, Nan Xu Rattanasone, Kerry-Ann Grant, Katherine Demuth, Denis Burnham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


High levels of maternal responsiveness are associated with healthy cognitive and emotional development in infants. However, depression and anxiety can negatively impact individual mothers' responsiveness levels and infants' expressive language abilities. Australian mother-infant dyads (N = 48) participated in a longitudinal study examining the effect of maternal responsiveness (when infants were 9- and 12-months), and maternal depression and anxiety symptoms on infant vocabulary size at 18-months. Global maternal responsiveness ratings were stronger predictors of infants' vocabulary size than levels of depression and anxiety symptoms. However, depression levels moderated the effect of maternal responsiveness on vocabulary size. These results highlight the importance of screening for maternal responsiveness-in addition to depression-to identify infants who may be at developmental risk. Also, mothers with elevated depression need support to first reduce their symptoms so that improvements in their responsiveness have the potential to be protective for their infant's language acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0277762
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Community-based sample
  • Postpartum depression
  • 2nd year
  • Young-children
  • Mental-health
  • Anxiety
  • Sensitivity
  • Symptoms
  • Mothers
  • Vocabulary


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