Open Access Open Badges Research article

Trajectories of maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety over 13 years: the influence of stress, social support, and maternal temperament

Anni Skipstein1*, Harald Janson2, Anne Kjeldsen1, Wendy Nilsen1 and Kristin S Mathiesen1

Author Affiliations

1 Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Division of Mental Health, PO Box 4404, Nydalen, Oslo 0403, Norway

2 The Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development, PO Box 7053, Majorstuen, Oslo 0306, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:1120  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1120

Published: 27 December 2012



Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems among women, with various negative impacts both for the women concerned and their families. Greater understanding of developmental trajectories of maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety over the child rearing period would have significant benefits for public health, informing prevention and treatment approaches. The aim of the current study was to examine whether stressors related to child rearing and living conditions, social support, and maternal temperament, predicted mothers’ membership in groups with different trajectories of symptoms of depression and anxiety during 13 years of the child rearing phase.


The data were from a prospective, longitudinal study of 913 mothers in Norway followed from when their children were 18 months old (time 1) until they were 14.5 years (time 6) (the TOPP study). Multinomial logistic regression analyses were used to test whether child related stressors, stressors related to the living conditions, social support and maternal temperament at time 1 predicted membership in groups based on maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety over the subsequent 13 years.


Temperamental distress, followed by child related stressors, were the strongest predictors of membership in a group with high symptoms of depression and anxiety over time. Stressors related to living conditions, and social support from partner and friends/family were also significant predictors. No interaction effects among predictors were found.


This study indicates that factors present early in the child rearing phase may provide substantial prediction of the variance in maternal symptoms of depression and anxiety over the following 13 years. Temperamental distress and child related stressors were the strongest predictors of membership in different depression and anxiety symptom trajectory groups.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety; Trajectories; Temperament; Stressors; Social support