Study finds that children of depressed mothers, even if symptoms aren’t severe, are at risk of developing behavioral and emotional problems ranging from hyperactivity, inattention, problems with peer relationships to social behavior.
Previous studies have already linked depression in mothers to health problems in children. This study, however, is the first to have also made this connection even when the symptoms are milder or has not been diagnosed, said lead author Judith van der Waerden, researcher at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris.
“There is a large group of mothers with depressive symptoms that are not severe enough to lead to a diagnosis, and who probably do not even seek help from their health care providers, but that do have a negative impact on their children's emotional and behavioral wellbeing,” said van der Waerden.
Symptoms of depression include continuous low mood or sadness, feeling hopeless and helpless and having no motivation or interest in things among others. Physical symptoms include a lack of energy and disturbed sleep. This is according to the NHS, a publicly-funded health service in England.
The study involved more than 1,100 mothers and their children from pregnancy up until the children’s fifth birthdays. Researchers would periodically assess the mothers’ mental health and the children’s emotional and behavioral development.
Sixty-two percent of the mothers did not experience signs of depression during the span of the study. 4.6% experienced chronic, severe depression; of this 3.6% had only experienced it during pregnancy and 4.6% when their children were preschoolers.
The study found that, whether moderate or severe, mothers who suffered from depression had children with emotional or behavioral issues.
Children with mothers who were depressed during their preschool years suffered the greatest level of behavioral problems, while those whose mothers who were depressed during pregnancy did not exhibit such problems.
Child psychology researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Erika Forbes, who is not involved in the study, supposed that this was due to the child’s unmet needs during a critical moment of their development.
“If mothers are depressed, they might find themselves too exhausted or emotionally taxed to engage in the kind of vigorous parenting that preschoolers tend to need,” she said.
“Depression can affect parent-child interactions, which in turn, may be one way that maternal depression affects children,” said David Bridgett, director of the Emotion Regulation and Temperament Laboratory at Northern Illinois University.
Source: April 26, 2015. "Children of depressed mothers at risk for behavior problems". gmanetwork.com