Treatment of Depressed Mothers in Home Visiting: Impact on Psychological Distress and Social Functioning




Robert T. Ammerman, Frank W. Putnam, Mekibib Altaye, Angelique R. Teeters, Jack Stevens, and Judith B. Van Ginkel

Brief Type

Journal Publication


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OBJECTIVES: Depression is prevalent in mothers receiving home visiting. Little is known about the impact of treatment on associated features of maternal depression in this population. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a novel, adapted treatment for depressed mothers in home visiting on psychological distress and social functioning. METHODS: In-Home Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (IH-CBT) was developed to treat depressed mothers in home visiting. A randomized clinical trial design was used in which subjects were 93 new mothers in a home visiting program. Mothers with major depressive disorder identified at 3 months postpartum were randomized into IH-CBT and ongoing home visiting (n = 47) or standard home visiting (SHV; n = 46) in which they received home visitation alone and could obtain treatment in the community. Measures of psychological distress, social support, and social network were measured at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and three-month follow-up. Clinical features of depression and home visiting parameters were examined as potential moderators. RESULTS: Subjects receiving IH-CBT reported decreased psychological distress at post-treatment (ES = 0.77) and follow-up (ES = 0.73). Examination of types of psychological distress indicated broad improvements at both time points. Those receiving IH-CBT reported increased social support over time relative to those in the SHV condition. Effect sizes were modest at post-treatment (ES = 0.38) but increased at follow-up (ES = 0.65). Improvements were seen in affiliative and belonginess aspects of social support, in contrast to tangible support which was statistically non-significant. Findings were not moderated by clinical features of depression or home visiting parameters. No group differences were found in size of and involvement with social networks. CONCLUSIONS: IH-CBT is effective in reducing psychological distress and improving perceived social support in depressed mothers receiving home visiting. To the extent that mothers are better adjusted and feel socially supported, they are more available to their children and more amenable to home visiting services. IH-CBT is a feasible, readily adopted treatment that is compatible with multiple home visiting models. As a result it is a promising approach to help depressed mothers in home visiting. Additional interventions may be needed to support depressed mothers in building sizable and stable social networks. (author abstract)

Data Collection Methods

  • Standardized assessment tools



For More Information

Ammerman, R. T., Putnam, F. W., Altaye, M., Teeters, A. R., Stevens, J., & Van Ginkel, J. B. (2013). Treatment of depressed mothers in home visiting: Impact on psychological distress and social functioning. Child Abuse & Neglect37(8), 544-554. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.03.003
Author Contact Information:
Robert T. Ammerman


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