Maternal psychological distress and appraisal of parenting experience predict social-emotional development of Kenyan infants

Sarah E. Watts, Paul Oburu, Suncica Lah, Paul Rhodes, Caroline J. Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study investigated whether higher maternal psychological distress, lower provision of psychosocial stimulation and a negative appraisal of parenting experience were associated with lower cognitive, motor, social-emotional and adaptive behaviour development in children under 3 years of age in Kenya. A cross-sectional design was used, with 81 caregiver–child dyads recruited through convenience sampling. The mean age of these infants was 8.5 months (SD = 5.6 months, range 23 days to 25.5 months). Higher maternal psychological distress was associated with lower social-emotional development, but not cognitive, motor and adaptive development of a child. Psychosocial stimulation provided by mothers was not related to any developmental outcomes. Maternal psychological distress and appraisal of parenting experience were significant, unique predictors of child social-emotional development. Findings suggest that interventions designed to promote social-emotional development of young children in Kenya should target maternal mental health and enhance confidence and experience of parenting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalEarly Child Development and Care
StateAccepted/In press - Oct 18 2016



  • Child development
  • low- and middle-income countries
  • maternal psychological distress
  • parenting experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics

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