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Research Paper

Maternal depression, parenting behaviors and child development: evidence from a randomized control trial


Publication date

Apr 2016


We evaluate the impacts of maternal depression on children's skill accumulation, exploiting randomized variation in depression created by a cluster-randomized control trial that provided cognitive behavioral therapy to women in rural Pakistan who were diagnosed as depressed in pregnancy. We conducted a followup study when the children were age 7 and assessed their cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development, parental investments in children, indicators of the quality of parenting, and of the home environment. The intervention was successful in reducing maternal depression and this effect was sustained. We also find that treated mothers exhibit better parenting behaviors, provide a better home environment and invest more in their children's education. We nevertheless find, on average, no detectible effects on children's cognitive, socio-emotional or physical development at age 7. We show that this is not because of differential attrition, differential shocks to treated vs control clusters or low power. With the odd exception, we find no evidence that the average results conceal large effects in relevant sub-samples, or in a segment of the distribution of outcomes. Since we find reinforcing parental investments in many domains in the treated group, it is also unlikely that the results are explained by unobserved compensating investments in the control group. We conclude that there are possibly positive but latent effects of the intervention that may be detectible in later life.


Psychology, Social Development, Child Development, Childbearing: Fertility, Well Being, Life Course Analysis, and Social Psychology


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