Furthermore, women who are aggressive and disruptive in their own teen years are more likely to become depressed in pregnancy, so that the mothers’ history predicts their own children’s antisocial behaviour.
That is the conclusion of a new longitudinal study conducted by researchers at Cardiff University, King’s College London, and the University of Bristol. The research appears in the January/February 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.
The study considered the role of mothers’ depression during pregnancy by looking at 120 British youth from inner-city areas.
Professor Dale F. Hay, Professor of Psychology at Cardiff University, said; “Much attention has been given to the effects of postnatal depression on young infants but depression during pregnancy may also affect the unborn child.”
The youths’ mothers were interviewed while they were pregnant, after they gave birth, and when their children were four, 11, and 16 years old.
The study found that mothers who became depressed when pregnant were four times as likely to have children who were violent at 16. This was true for both boys and girls. The mothers’ depression, in turn, was predicted by their own aggressive and disruptive behaviour as teens.
The link between depression in pregnancy and the children’s violence couldn’t be explained by other factors in the families’ environments, such as social class, ethnicity, or family structure; the mothers’ age, education, marital status, or IQ; or depression at other times in the children’s lives.
Professor Hay said: “Although it’s not yet clear exactly how depression in pregnancy might set infants on a pathway toward increased antisocial behaviour, our findings suggest that women with a history of conduct problems who become depressed in pregnancy may be in special need of support.”
Mothers’ Antenatal Depression and Their Children’s Antisocial Outcomes by Hay, DF (Cardiff University), Pawlby, S (King’s College London), Waters, CS, and Perra, O (Cardiff University), and Sharp, D (University of Bristol) Child Development, Vol. 81, Issue 1. Copyright 2010 The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved.