Previous research has shown that children of depressed mothers are much more prone to developing emotional problems, but it is still not clear whether it’s because of genetics or because of the lack of the maternal-child interaction.
Life stressors, as well as environmental and hormonal issues, are factors that may influence a woman’s susceptibility to depression – a problem that is being seen more and more in women in recent years.
“The results of the study indicated what we already knew intuitively – that when a woman gets depressed, it can have a far reaching impact on her children. This work underscores that treatment for mother’s depression as being pivotal to child’s recovery,” said study co-author Aradhana Bela Sood, M.D., professor and chair of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the VCU School of Medicine, and a nationally recognized expert in children and adolescents with mental health problems.
“This makes a very, very strong point to say that children of women who are depressed are at high risk for developing problems of their own and becoming ineffective young people in the classroom and in the home,” she said.
The women in the study are participants in a larger study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health called the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression or STAR*D. VCU is one of 14 regional centers around the United States involved in the STAR*D study.
The STAR*D study examined women across the lifespan – young, middle-aged and older who were suffering from depression and their response to treatment. An ancillary portion of this study was the child section in which the research team began to look at the children of these women who were depressed.
“I think that is a very exciting thing because now we have scientific basis to start treating depression in mothers aggressively, actively and side-by-side, not ignoring what’s going on with children in the household, because we know they’re at great risk,” Sood said.
The study was published in March issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry, the official journal of the American Psychiatric Association.
Sathya Achia Abraham
VCU Communications and Public Relations