Quick Facts: A Digest of Recent Findings in Psychology
Compiled and Edited by Geraldine Merola Barton, Ph.D.
Mother's Depression Affects Child's BehaviorA major new study adds to the evidence that maternal depression may have profound effects on children.In a longitudinal study of 1,215 mothers and their children conducted at nine U.S. medical centers, the investigators observed moms playing with their children at ages 5, 15, 24, and 36 months. Of the original participants, 55% of moms were "never depressed,'' 38% were "sometimes depressed" and 8% had a diagnosed "clinical" depression. Overall, the study found that children of clinically depressed moms fared worse than children of moms who were never depressed. Effects on children of moms who were sometimes depressed fell somewhere in the middle of the two groups.When observed at age 3, children of depressed moms were less cooperative and exhibited more problem behaviors compared with children of non-depressed moms. Children of depressed mothers also scored worse on standardized tests measuring expressive language, verbal comprehension, and readiness for school.However, those depressed mothers who demonstrated more sensitivity to their child's needs while playing, had children who scored better on cognitive and language tests and who were more cooperative in cleaning up play things, than the children of less sensitive depressed mothers.The sensitive moms were respectful of their children, supportive of their children's activities, did not interfere unnecessarily, and responded appropriately to their children's needs. The researchers conclude, "Children of mothers who reported more symptoms of depression but who were still highly sensitive to their children were buffered from some of the potentially negative effects of their mothers' depressive symptoms…”Commented the lead researcher, Dr. Martha Cox, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "Among other things, our findings show that women who are depressed shouldn't just tough it out but instead should seek help from healthcare professionals and support from family and friends... because otherwise their children's development could suffer."SOURCE: Developmental Psychology 1999;35:1297-1310.All information on this web site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical, psychological or psychiatric advice or treatment for specific conditions. You should seek prompt car