Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Judy Silberg

Second Advisor

Lauren Cowart

Third Advisor

Carmen Sato-Bigbe

Fourth Advisor

Jennifer Hinesley


Background: Postpartum depression (PPD) is a phenomenon that affects nearly 10-15% of pregnancies in the US. It is characterized by depressed mood or anhedonia and lasting for more than 2 weeks. PPD changes how moms interact with family members and child-rearing behavior. Depression is a phenomenon that is also known to affect the psychopathology of children. However, the specifics of how postpartum depression impacts children remains controversial. Many studies do not control for major depressive disorder which makes it difficult to disentangle the impact depression has within the first year of life. Furthermore, other PPD risk factors may be confounding the effect PPD has on child psychopathology.


  1. Identify risk factors for PPD in the areas of: A) birth outcomes, B) prenatal behaviors, C) maternal mental health, and D) SES

  2. Identify associations between PPD and child psychopathology

  3. Identify associations between relevant child psychopathology (identified in aim 2) and select PPD risk factors (identified in aim 1).

  4. Determine the GxE interaction for select birth outcomes and select child psychopathology.

Methods: This is a retrospective cohort study from the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development (VTSABD). There were 855 moms included for analysis with 7.46% reporting PPD and 1710 relevant twin pairs.


  1. PPD was associated with: A) child fretting and staying with other family members, B) drinking alcohol during pregnancy, C) major depressive disorder and panic disorder, and, D) marital satisfaction

  2. PPD was associated with ADHD and conduct disorder with the main driver being ADHD.

  3. ADHD was linked to: A)fretting and staying with other family members, B) drinking alcohol at least once per week C) postpartum depression and alcoholism, and D) low income and low familial education

  4. Twin Correlations reveal that fretting and ADHD are driven by genetics. Staying with other family members is driven by the environment. PPD increases the genetic heritability of children’s ADHD.

Discussion: Having postpartum depression increases the odds that children have ADHD by increasing the genetic variance.


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