The effects of maternal depression on speech to pre-school children: Implications for language development
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We examined whether a past history of maternal depression affects the manner in which mothers speak to their children, and whether any differences relate to child language development. To do this, we measured acoustic, temporal and content-based speech/language characteristics of 40 pre-school-aged children and mothers with and without a history of depression. Results indicated that children of mothers with a past history of depression exhibited significantly lower vocabulary scores than children of mothers unaffected by depression. However, no maternal speech/language variables appeared to account for this difference. Maternal pitch variability and number of negative utterances both were found to correlate with child vocabulary scores; however, neither variable was found to relate to prior depression status. We discuss possible explanations for these findings and implications for child language development.