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Depression Health Center

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Mom's Depression Leads to Kids' Misbehavior

Treating Depression in Moms Could Result in Better Conduct by Kids
By
WebMD Health News

Feb. 7, 2005 -- A mother's depression can lead to behavior problems in her children, says a new study.

Children with depressed moms are significantly more likely to show antisocial behavior at age 5 and 7 years, says a report in the February issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. That's all the more reason for mothers to seek treatment for depression, say the researchers, who included Julia Kim-Cohen, PhD, of King's College London.

Depression is common, striking almost 19 million U.S. adults annually. Women experience depression about twice as often as men, and it's not uncommon for women to be affected after becoming mothers.

Effective depression treatments are available. Judging by the study's findings, mothers seeking help for depression wouldn't just improve their own lives. They might also see a positive impact on their children's behavior.

"For some depressed mothers, effective treatment for depression should lead to secondary benefits for their children," write the researchers.

Probing Depression's Family Ties

It's hard to say what makes children misbehave. The researchers knew that kids of depressed mothers often have behavior problems, but they didn't know why.

Was it because depression decreased their mothers energy, making parenting tougher? Or did some depressed mothers also have antisocial personality traits that influenced kids' behavior? Did depressed moms pass on a genetic liability for antisocial behavior?

Those were among the theories explored in the study. Data came from more than 1,100 sets of British twins and their mothers.

The mothers were about 33 years old at the study's start. They were asked if they'd ever had depression, and about their kids' behavior. The children's teachers were also interviewed for another perspective on the kids' conduct.

Most of the moms -- 728 -- said they had never been depressed. The rest were asked when their depression occurred. For 68 women, depression happened only before the birth of their twins. For 193, depression started after their twins were born. Another 124 women were depressed both before and after giving birth to their twins.

The mothers were also asked about their own behavior and that of the twins' biological fathers. Questions covered antisocial traits like recklessness, irresponsibility, illegal behavior, impulsivity, aggressiveness, and deceitfulness.

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