Abstract Background Perinatal depression is a pervasive public health concern that disproportionately affects low-income women and can have negative impacts on parenting and child developmental outcomes. Few interventions focus on preventing perinatal depression. Previous studies suggest that Mothers and Babies is efficacious in preventing the worsening of depressive symptoms and the onset of postpartum depression. This manuscript presents the protocol of the EPIC study (Effects of a Prenatal Depression Preventive Intervention on parenting and young children’s Self-Regulation and Functioning) to test the effects of Mothers and Babies on parenting and child developmental outcomes through 54 months postpartum. EPIC is an observational study that builds on a completed cluster-randomized trial (CRT). Innovations of this study are direct observations of a subsample of mother-child dyads and the inclusion of fathers/caregivers’ variables as moderators of maternal mental health. Methods For this study, we plan to enroll 738 women with children under 30 months old, ≥18 years old, and who speak English or Spanish. Additionally, 429 fathers, partners, or other adult caregivers will be recruited through women participating in the study. Women will be recruited through the parent study (intervention and control participants) or through one of 10 home visiting programs in Illinois (control participants). Data collection will take place through maternal self-report at five time points (when the child is 30, 36, 42, 48, and 54 months), paternal self-report at three time points (when the child is 30, 42, and 54 months), and through mother-child observations at three time points (when the child is 36, 42, and 48 months). Outcome domains include maternal mental health, cognitive-behavioral and parenting skills, and child self-regulation and functioning. Moderators include the contributions of fathers/caregivers, race-ethnicity, and socioeconomic disadvantage. Power and sample size were calculated assuming a two-sided 5% type I error rate and assumed analyses on the individual level. Discussion This study has several key strengths and innovations, as well as great potential significance to influence the long-term trajectories of parenting and child development via prenatal intervention. Trial registration The study was retrospectively registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (Identifier: NCT04296734 ) on March 5, 2020.
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