Thumbnail Image

Interactive effects of maternal affect and nutrition on parenting

Aubuchon-Endsley, Nicki Lynn
Scope and Method of Study:
Studies have supported relations between maternal nutrition and affect and relations between maternal affect and parenting, but few have investigated direct relations between nutrition and parenting. Models linking all three variables are also underdeveloped. Existing literature suggests that iron status/intake and depressive symptomology may interact to predict negative parenting styles like authoritarian and permissive parenting though no known studies have tested this hypothesis. Therefore, the current study investigated these interaction effects in addition to alternative mediating models. A sample of mothers (n = 105) at 3 months postpartum were utilized given that they have increased micronutrient requirements and are at greater risk for the development of mood disorders. Participants completed questionnaires regarding their dietary iron intake, parenting styles/attitudes, and affect. Biochemical measures of maternal iron status (i.e., hemoglobin, soluble transferrin receptor, and serum ferritin concentrations) were assessed from intravenous blood samples.
Findings and Conclusions:
There were significant interactions between both iron status and intake and depressive symptomology in predicting authoritarian parenting style. For those with hemoglobin below 14.0g/dL, depressive symptomology was positively related to authoritarian parenting style. For those with estimated daily dietary iron intake above 20.90mg, those with more depressive symptomology had more authoritarian parenting style. The latter finding is thought to be due to the mothers taking large doses of supplementation perhaps to treat poor iron status (i.e., low hemoglobin and ferritin). Because relations were found within well-nourished women, standards for iron deficiency may need to be re-conceptualized in lactating women. Screening for poor iron status and depressive symptomology in postpartum women may help to identify those at risk for problematic parenting. Dietary interventions may help to eliminate relations between depression and parenting. Differences in relations between iron status and intake should also be considered in future studies. Additional studies are needed to replicate current study findings and explore underlying mechanisms that account for interactions.