We argue in Part 1 of this paper that maternal depression is an under-acknowledged factor in the intergenerational transmission of poverty, and lack of economic mobility. Specifically, we show that:
I. Poverty increases the risk of maternal depression;
II. Maternal depression can weaken attachment;
III. Weaker attachment can impair child development;
IV. Slower development can damage child outcomes; and
V. Worse child outcomes can increase the risk of future poverty.
Since our focus here is on the role of the mental health of caregivers in the very early years, we spend more time on these particular links in the chain. The other links—for instance, between child and adult outcomes—are treated only briefly, with pointers to the broader literature. In Part 2 we draw out some policy approaches to breaking the cycle at each point. This is an area where a “two-generation” approach may pay dividends. Specifically, we suggest policies to:
I. Reduce poverty;
II. Reduce the impact of poverty on depression among caregivers;
III. Reduce the impact of caregiver depression on early child development; and
IV. Reduce the impact of weaker early child development on later outcomes.
(Edited author introduction)