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PLoS One. 2019 Jan 7;14(1):e0209735. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209735. eCollection 2019.

Are we validly assessing major depression disorder risk and associated factors among mothers of young children? A cross-sectional study involving home visitation programs.

Author information

Department of Public Health, Falk College, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, United States of America.
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States of America.


Failure to account for misclassification error accruing from imperfect case-finding instruments can produce biased estimates of suspected major depression disorder (MDD) risk factor associations. The objective of this study was to estimate the impact of misclassification error on the magnitude of measures of association between suspected risk factors and MDD assessed using the Center of Epidemiological Studies on Depression-Short Form during the prenatal and postnatal periods. Baseline data were collected from 520 mothers participating in two home visitation studies in Oklahoma City between 2010 and 2014. A Bayesian binomial latent class model was used to compare the prevalence proportion ratio (PPR) between suspected risk factors and MDD with and without adjustment for misclassification error and confounding by period of MDD symptom on-set. Adjustment for misclassification error and confounding by period of MDD on-set (prenatal vs postnatal) showed that the association between suspected risk factors and MDD is underestimated (-) and overestimated (+) differentially in different source populations of low-income mothers. The median bias in the magnitude of PPR estimates ranged between -.47 (95% Bayesian Credible Intervals [BCI]: -10.67, 1.90) for intimate partner violence to +.06 (95%BCI: -0.37, 0.47) for race/ethnicity among native-born US residents. Among recent Hispanic immigrants, bias ranged from -.77 (95%BCI: -15.31, 0.96) for history of childhood maltreatment to +.10 (95%BCI: -0.17, 0.39) for adequacy of family resources. Overall, the extent of bias on measures of association between maternal MDD and suspected risk factors is considerable without adjustment for misclassification error and is even higher for confounding by period of MDD assessment. Consideration of these biases in MDD prevention research is warranted.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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