There are few data sets with which to explore this question. One is the Peru Young Lives survey, which is unparalleled in its depth of over-time household level data and in its documentation of parent-child health, subjective well-being, and objective outcomes. Two of my University of Maryland doctoral students, Magdalena Bendini and Sarah Dickerson, have used the Young Lives data to explore the role of mothers’ life satisfaction and reported depression in the longer-term outcomes of children.
Bendini’s research, based on the 2002-2009 rounds of the Young Lives survey, finds that reported maternal depression has modest negative association with children’s growth outcomes in later years. The primary channel seems to be the limits that depression places on maternal engagement. Maternal depression also has a negative association with children’s cognitive development, with the effects being most notable for boys and for the lowest income mothers. Dickerson’s ongoing research, based on the 2002-2014 rounds, establishes linkages between early round maternal life satisfaction and depression, and adolescent behavior in later rounds. She finds that maternal life satisfaction correlates positively with adolescent’s reported health status, while depression has a negative association. Maternal depression is also associated with adolescents’ propensity to smoke and to engage in unprotected sex.
Additionally, Dr. Mary Penny of Young Lives Peru and the Nutrition Research Institute and I are currently fielding a complementary study (based on a separate sample) to explore the role of aspirations – and past negative shocks – in the life choices of 18-19 year olds. These choices include investments in education (staying in school or not), health decisions (including drug and alcohol use), marital and fertility decisions, and risk taking more generally. Separate but related work by Marta Favara and Alan Sanchez (2017), also based on the Young Lives survey, finds that self-esteem in earlier adolescence protects them from risky behaviour five years later. This is particularly, but not only, for boys.