Article Date: 22 Mar 2006 – 15:00pm (UK)
According to a US study, mothers can pass depression on to their children. On the other hand, if the mother is successfully treated for depression, the chances of her children developing psychiatric disorders goes down significantly.
This is the first study to look at a link between a child’s mental health and his/her mother’s (successful or not) treatment for depression.
Sadly, if the mother’s depression continues, her children run a sizeable risk of having mental health problems.
The author of the study, Myrna Weissman, said “If you have a depression mother, you ought to do everything you can to get her better, because there’s a double effect…. While depression may be a genetic disorder, it has a strong environmental component. And, for a child, a parent’s illness is a very strong environmental effect. You want to reduce that effect so that you can have a beneficial effect on the child.”
The study looked at 151 mothers with depression and 151 of their children, aged 7-17, during 2001 – 2004.
At the start of the study over 30% of the children had mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and behavioural problems. Three months later one third of the mothers were successfully treated for depression. Among those mothers, the number of children with mental health problems fell by 11%. However, after three months there was an 8% increase in the number of children with mental health problems among the mothers whose depression did not go into remission (did not get better).
The researchers also noticed that the mother’s depression tends to effect the whole family.
Post Natal Depression (PND) or Post Natal Illness (PNI)?
Many organisations that help women with Post Natal Illness, prefer to use this term, rather than Post Natal Depression. The reason being that many women who experience this illness found that the term ‘depression’ did not reflect how it felt for them.
Many find the term Post Natal Depression misleading and unhelpful and prefer the use of Post Natal Illness as a descriptive and useful name.
For a description of Post Natal Illness, go to
Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today
© 2003-2006 Medical News Today