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Child Abuse Negl. 1992;16(3):345-58.

Early identification of maternal depression as a strategy in the prevention of child abuse.

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School of Social Work, University of Melbourne, Australia.


Maternal suicide and infanticide are merely the extreme tip of the iceberg of psychological and social morbidity associated with post-partum depression. Despite research indicating an association between maternal depression and disturbed parent-child interaction, maternal depression has been largely ignored in the literature on child maltreatment and in child protection practice. Practitioners should be alert to the potential risks to the child associated with maternal depression. In cases where child abuse has occurred, they should consider the possibility that the mother is depressed and that this needs to be treated as a problem in its own right. In terms of prevention of child maltreatment, early identification of maternal depression is an important strategy in which primary health workers have an important role. This study investigates the feasibility of broadening the traditional infant health focus of the role of the Australian Maternal and Child Health Nurse or Public Health Nurse to encompass maternal emotional and social well-being. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, the conditions under which mothers would find this acceptable, and the factors that facilitate or constrain such role redefinition are analyzed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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