Study finds mothers experiencing depression before pregnancy transmit symptoms to their kids

05 June 2022 20:44 IST

Washington [US]Jun 5 (ANI): According to a new UCLA psychological study, children whose mothers experience increasing levels of depression from conception to shortly after delivery are more likely to develop emotional, social and academic difficulties during adolescence .
Their recently published seven-year study, which followed mothers and their offspring from preconception until the children were 5 years old, is the first to show how changes in maternal depression levels over time can affect behavior. in early childhood and emotional well-being, authors said.
The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
“Our findings suggest that maternal increases in symptoms of depression from preconception to postpartum contribute to children’s decreased attention and behavioral control, which may increase the risk of problems throughout the lifespan,” said lead author Gabrielle Rinne, a psychology graduate student. at UCLA. “However, parents should know that this can be addressed through early childhood interventions.”
For the two-part study, the researchers first analyzed data from 362 women — most of whom were black or Hispanic and on low incomes — collected as part of a survey by the Community Child Health Network, a collaboration between health scientists from UCLA and other institutions. together with community partners, who explored maternal and child health inequalities among poor and minority families.
The women, all of whom already had a young child, were followed through a subsequent pregnancy and were interviewed four times about their symptoms of depression – once before they became pregnant, twice during the pregnancy and again about three months after the birth of their baby. baby – with researchers tracking how these symptoms changed over time.
Just under 75 percent of the women reported low symptoms of depression that did not change over the study period, while 12 percent had low symptoms that increased significantly and 7 percent had persistently high symptoms.
For the second part of the study, the researchers followed 125 of these women several years later. When their children were four years old, or still preschool age, the mothers were asked to describe in detail their child’s temperament and behavior — especially their experiences with emotional stress and their ability to regulate their emotions.

Then, at the age of 5, the children performed a task that required focused attention. Looking at an iPad screen with an array of fish on it, they were asked to identify the direction of the fish in the center while ignoring the direction of all other fish. Higher scores on this task reflect a greater ability to focus and inhibit attention to surrounding stimuli, Rinne said.
Children of mothers whose depression had increased from preconception to the postpartum period performed significantly worse on the computer task than those whose mothers reported consistently low symptoms of depression.
Interestingly, there were no differences in performance between children whose mothers had consistently high depression and children whose mothers had consistently low depression.
“This study suggests that a pattern of increasing depression may have a negative effect on children,” said senior author Christine Dunkel Schetter, a distinguished professor of psychology and psychiatry at UCLA who has played a leading role in designing studies and developing studies. developing interviews.
She noted that not all of these children are predisposed to experience difficulties, but emphasized that “they are at higher risk for social-emotional and behavioral and school risk.
“Mothers who experience depression or stress multiple times should know the effects it can have on young children,” Dunkel Schetter added. “They can seek evaluation and treatment from a physician or mental health professional for their children and themselves.”
“Adding a child to the family is an important emotional and psychological adjustment that can bring both joy and sorrow,” Rinne said. “Maternal depression is one of the most common complications of pregnancy and postpartum.”
In Los Angeles County, she pointed out, estimates of depression in pregnancy and in new mothers run as high as 25 percent.
The study’s findings, Rinne said, “support the importance of comprehensive mental health care across multiple periods of the reproductive life course,” starting even before pregnancy and continuing beyond — especially for mothers who feel elevated levels of anxiety at some point. (ANI)

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