Pregnancy

Increased depression during pregnancy raises risk of behavioral problems in children

Increased depression during pregnancy raises risk of behavioral problems in children
Children of mothers whose depression increased during pregnancy performed worse on a computer task to assess their ability to concentrate than children whose mothers had consistently low symptoms of depression. picture by Cindy Parks/Pixabay
Children whose mothers had increasing levels of depression during pregnancy appear to have an increased risk of behavioral problems, the researchers said.

“Our results suggest that increased maternal symptoms of depression from preconception to postpartum contribute to children’s decreased attention and behavioral control, which may increase the risk of lifelong problems. of life,” said the study’s lead author, Gabrielle Rinne, a graduate psychology student at the university. University of California, Los Angeles.

“Parents should be aware, however, that this can be resolved with early childhood intervention,” Rinne said in a university press release.

The seven-year study included 125 American women and their children who were followed from before pregnancy until the children were 5 years old. Most of the women were black or Hispanic and from low-income families.

The women were asked four times about their symptoms of depression: once before becoming pregnant, twice during pregnancy and again about three months after the birth of their baby.

When their children were 4 years old, mothers were asked to describe their child’s temperament and behavior, particularly episodes of emotional distress and their ability to regulate their emotions.

At age 5, the children were given a computer task to assess their ability to concentrate.

Children of mothers whose depression increased during pregnancy performed worse on the task than children of mothers with consistently low symptoms of depression.

According to the study, children whose mothers were consistently high in depression and those whose mothers were consistently low in depression performed similarly on the task. The results have been published online in the Affective Disorders Diary.

It’s the first to show that changes in mothers’ levels of depression over time can affect the behavior and emotional well-being of their young children, the researchers said.

“This study suggests that a pattern of escalating depression may negatively affect children,” said study co-author Christine Dunkel Schetter, professor of psychology and psychiatry at UCLA.

She noted, however, that not all of these children will experience behavior problems later on, only that their risk may be higher. The study only found an association, not a cause-and-effect link.

“Moms who repeatedly experience depression or stress should be aware of the effects it can have on young children,” Dunkel Schetter said in the statement. “They can seek assessment and treatment of a doctor or mental health professional for their children and themselves.”

More information

To learn more about depression during pregnancy, see the American Pregnancy Association.

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