Postnatal depression linked to depression in offspring
by Rebecca Coxon
Offspring of postnatally depressed mothers are at increased risk for depression by 16 years of age claims a study recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
This marks the first study to demonstrate that the effects of prolonged maternal depression on the likelihood of a child developing depression may begin as early as in infancy.
Lynne Murray, Ph.D and her British colleagues conducted the study which involved monitoring offspring of postnatally depressed and non-depressed mothers with child and family assessments being made from infancy to 16 years.
A total of 702 mothers were screened, and probable cases interviewed. In all, 58 depressed mothers and 42 non-depressed controls were recruited, with a total of 93% assessed through to 16-year follow-up.
The study found that the children of severely postnatally depressed mothers were at a substantially increased risk for depression.
In fact, remarkably, an offspring's rate of depression by the age of 16 was more than 40%, with the average age of first onset of depression at 14.
The study concluded that the results may be ‘partially explained by child vulnerability established in infancy and the early years, and by exposure to family adversity.’
Interestingly, the researchers found an associated impairment of the children's attachment to their mother during infancy some years before the onset of depression.
In addition, lower child ego resilience, measured at five and eight years, were associated with the increased risk of depression. Marital conflict and further maternal depression, extending beyond the postnatal period, were significantly associated with offspring lifetime depression.
The researchers suggest that ‘Routine screening for postnatal depression, and parenting support for postnatally depressed mothers, might reduce offspring developmental risks for clinical depression in childhood and adolescence.’
‘The substantially raised risk for depression among offspring of postnatally depressed mothers underlines the importance of screening for postnatal depression and of delivering early interventions,’ the researchers concluded.
Over half of women will experience some form of ‘baby blues’ but if the depression period lasts more than two weeks then it may be a sign of Postnatal Depression which affects around 10-15% of mothers.
Details of the study ca be found at Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adult Psychiatry