Examining the relationship between maternal mental health-related hospital admissions and childhood developmental vulnerability at school entry in Canada and Australia

Megan F. Bell, Rebecca Glauert, Leslie L. Roos, Elizabeth Wall-Wieler

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Background It is well established that maternal mental illness is associated with an increased risk of poor development for children. However, inconsistencies in findings regarding the nature of the difficulties children experience may be explained by methodological or geographical differences. Aims We used a common methodological approach to compare developmental vulnerability for children whose mothers did and did not have a psychiatric hospital admission between conception and school entry in Manitoba, Canada, and Western Australia, Australia. We aimed to determine if there are common patterns to the type and timing of developmental difficulties across the two settings. Method Participants included children who were assessed with the Early Development Instrument in Manitoba, Canada (n = 69 785), and Western Australia, Australia (n = 19 529). We examined any maternal psychiatric hospital admission (obtained from administrative data) between conception and child's school entry, as well as at specific time points (pregnancy and each year until school entry). Results Log-binomial regressions modelled the risk of children of mothers with psychiatric hospital admissions being developmentally vulnerable. In both Manitoba and Western Australia, an increased risk of developmental vulnerability on all domains was found. Children had an increased risk of developmental vulnerability regardless of their age at the time their mother was admitted to hospital. Conclusions This cross-national comparison provides further evidence of an increased risk of developmental vulnerability for children whose mothers experience severe mental health difficulties. Provision of preventative services during early childhood to children whose mothers experience mental ill health may help to mitigate developmental difficulties at school entry.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29
JournalBJPsych Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2023

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