It is well-established that maternal depression can lead to a host of negative outcomes for mothers and children. Children of depressed mothers are more likely to engage in risky behavior than those of nondepressed mothers. They are at increased risk for internalizing and externalizing behaviors and are vulnerable to mood issues such as depression and anxiety. The emotional unavailability of depressed mothers can diminish any feelings of maternal warmth and may cause mothers to engage in especially harsh parenting practices. Children of depressed mothers may choose to cope by turning to alcohol at a young age. Heavy episodic drinking (HED) is one strategy that teens often use to cope with overwhelming and painful situations. Dorian A. Lamis of the Department of Psychology at the University of South Carolina wanted to find out if maternal depression increased HED and, if so, what steps could be taken to diminish its effect.
In a recent study, Lamis collected self-reports from more than 700 parents and their children for 13 years, stopping when the children entered the 11th grade. The data revealed that the children with depressed mothers began drinking earlier than those whose mothers were not depressed. Lamis also discovered that harsh parenting increased the likelihood of early-onset HED.
Lamis knows the self-reports used in this study could be biased and hopes future research will use clinical assessments to further support these findings. Also, factors such as divorce and parental conflict should be considered in future work. Despite these limitations, this research demonstrates that mothers with depression need early interventions not only for their well-being but for the long-term well-being and adjustment of their children. Lamis believes that interventions that target reducing depression and teaching constructive parenting practices may decrease the chance that their children will later engage in risky behavior such as alcohol use. These treatments should also include strategies to reduce mood and depression problems in children of depressed parents. “These improved intervention and prevention programs could have important implications for reducing the occurrence and early initiation of alcohol use and HED among at-risk youths,” Lamis said.
Lamis, Dorian A., Patrick S. Malone, Jennifer E. Lansford, and John E. Lochman. Maternal depressive symptoms as a predictor of alcohol use onset and heavy episodic drinking in youths. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 80.5 (2012): 887-96. Print.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.