The influence of perinatal depression on child development: understanding mechanisms 

Perinatal depression in mothers is common, with rates of approximately 10-15% in high-income countries and substantially higher in many low- and middle-income countries. Depression in fathers in the perinatal period, while less studied, is also common. Perinatal depression is important not only because of its impact on the parent at such an important time in life, but because of the risks it raises for the child’s cognitive, social and behavioural development. It is important to emphasise that negative effects on children are not inevitable and that children can develop well in this context. Thus, understanding the mechanisms (both mediators and moderators) whereby perinatal depression may influence child development is essential, not least to inform interventions. I will present a framework for understanding mechanisms and focus on potential parenting pathways. This understanding allows mechanisms to be clinically targeted, with mediators allowing the remediation of risk, and moderators guiding which groups or populations to target.


University of Oxford. United Kingdom

Professor Alan Stein is Head of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Research Group at the University of Oxford. His main area of research concerns the development of very young children and adolescents in the face of adversity. The ultimate aim of this work is to develop interventions to enhance children’s early development and support their families. The group is interested in a range of adversities which might potentially affect children’s development including parental physical illness (cancer and HIV), psychological disorders including depression, anxiety and eating disorders, as well as poverty and malnutrition.

He also holds an honorary professorship at the School of Public Health at the University of Witwatersrand, and is a Faculty Member of the African Health Research Institute. He has led 3 Lancet series, and his work has been published in other leading scientific journals such as JAMA and Nature. He has also been referenced in top media outlets such as the BBC, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.