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Cape Town - Maternal mental health problems, including post-natal depression, are growing among women in developing countries, threatening the development and nutritional status of their children.
But in Africa, with its culture of multiple-care giving, the effects may be cushioned, with a new study of African families showing no direct correlation between depressive symptoms of mothers, and the health outcomes of their children.
Presenting her study at the 21st International Association for Cultural Psychology congress at Stellenbosch University, Amina Abubakar, from Utrecht in Holland, said while depressive symptoms had “consistently been associated with negative impact on child health” in some western and East Asian countries, Africa’s children were “somehow cushioned” from these negative outcomes.
We don’t know why in Africa results are inconsistent with other countries, but we suspect the African culture of having multiple caregivers, such as grandmothers, aunts and sisters in most home environments, may have acted as a buffer
“The fact that they are always surrounded by people may have benefited them somehow,” she said.
The community-based study, which took in almost 200 mothers and their children, did however find that child stimulation and parent behaviour did improve child outcomes.
“Parents who provided more learning and playing materials reported that their children did better,” Abubakar said.
While more analysis still needed to be done, she said early results also showed that children of women with better socio-economic status were also more difficult to take care of and more attention-seeking than those of those of the poor.
“There are many contributing factors that are at play. One reason could be that because those mothers are working, children are probably not bonding enough with them, hence the demanding behaviour,” she suggested. - Cape Argus