Groundbreaking research links postpartum depression to increased depression in children. Dr. Lynne Murray, and her colleagues in Britain, studied 100 first-time mothers in order to determine if their offspring would develop depression as a result of their mother’s postpartum depression. In the first study of its kind, the researchers evaluated mothers with and without postpartum depression, all between the ages of 18 to 42. They assessed the mothers and their children at several different points throughout their lives, the last time being when the children reached the age of 16. The mothers were evaluated for postpartum depression two months after giving birth, using the Schedule for Affective Disorder and Schizophrenia and the Structured Clinical Interview. In addition, marital harmony or discord was addressed through questionnaires and interviewing.
When the children were 18 months old, attachment issues were gauged with the aid of the Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure. The children were again assessed for developmental progress, both behaviorally and emotionally, at the age of 5 and again when they reached 8 years old. At the age of 16, the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia, Present and Lifetime Version, was administered by the clinical researchers in order to diagnose the presence of depressive symptoms.
The findings revealed that children were 40% more likely to have developed depression by their 16th birthday if their mother had experienced postpartum depression. The mean age for onset of symptoms was 14. Additionally, the study showed that these high risk children displayed attachment issues at the 18 month old mark. This same group of children had less ego resilience when assessed at ages 5 and 8. The presence of marital stress or dysfunction had significant impact on the likelihood of the child developing depression. The researchers add, “The substantially raised risk for depression among offspring of post-natally depressed mothers underlines the importance of screening for PND and of delivering early interventions.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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