Ongoing Maternal Depression Can Lead To Later Child Behavior Problems

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postpartum depression newsThere’s a new study published in Maternal & Child Health‘s March 2012 issue about the impact of maternal depression on the health of children. What interests me about the study is that it seems to indicate, to me anyway, that moms who get treated for postpartum depression have less to worry about than moms who don’t. If a mom who has PPD goes untreated (as 85% of them do), and her postpartum depression morphs into ongoing chronic depression, her child has a greater risk of chronic behavioral problems as he or she gets older.  Here’s the abstract of the study:

Children of depressed mothers have been shown to express behaviour problems to a greater extent than children of non-depressed mothers. The purpose of this study was to examine the persistence of depressive symptoms in mothers and to evaluate the relative importance of symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) and concurrent maternal symptoms of depression, on child behaviour at age 12. A birth cohort of 1,707 children and their mothers was followed from 3 months after birth to 12 years after birth … Our findings indicate that recurrent and ongoing maternal depressive symptoms significantly increase the risk of child behaviour problems as reported by mothers, while symptoms of PPD do not seem to result in an increased risk of behaviour problems in 12 year olds. High maternal socio-demographic life stress at childbirth constitutes an important risk factor for later child behaviour problems.

Do you have the same interpretation?

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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  1. “increase the risk of child behaviour problems as reported by mothers”

    Perhaps depressed mothers see behavior as problematic, whereas the same behavior, if they were not depressed would not be reported as such….? And/or non-depressed moms may not rate the behavior as problematic either.

    But, to your question, I think that ongoing depression will have an impact. Whether it’s on mom’s perception or whether it really is difficult behavior ongoing depression sucks and impacts the relationship.

    The study echos the ones that say a non-depressed mom is a better parent than one who is depressed, no matter if she needs meds to be non-depressed or she comes by it naturally. Same with during pregnancy. That’s my 2¢. =)

  2. i agree with Diane, my children are the most difficult int he world when I’m having a bad depressed day. They will act the same way the next day but i brush it off much easier and my expectations change when my mood changes.

  3. I too find that my perception of my childrens behavior changes significantly with my level of depression/anxiety and ability to cope day to day. I have been recieving fairly intensive treatment for 2 years now and wonder if this study took into account if the depressed moms were recieving any ongoing treatment or MH support. Although my depression has fluxuated between mild and severe I am sure that the treatment and support I recieve makes a very positive impact on my children’s lives and thus their behavior.

  4. I had PPD with both of my children. My second was born when my first was 2yr 10 months. The second time PPD lasted 1 year and was accompanied by acute anxiety. Also, prior to the birth of our second my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. My older son and I were alone together for about 1 year then dad then baby arrived. My now 4 year old is very needy of my attention. I worry that he will have ongoing problems. I have been doing a lot of reading/research on how to manage his negative attention seeking. It was hard to manage when I had PPD. I am patient and loving and I do see his behaviors improving but then there are days where it feels we haven’t made any progress. Any thoughts you have on this would be helpful. Thanks.