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Maternal Depression Can Lead to Behavioral Problems in Children; Father Involvement Can Help

Studies have shown that children of depressed mothers have more disruptive and depressive symptoms than those of non-depressed mothers. However, if the father compensates for the limitations on the depressed motherís parenting, the childís risk of problematic behaviors may be reduced in the future.

In a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the results from a national longitudinal survey of youth were reported. According tothe study, previous studies have shown that children with depressed parents tend to display problems such as a difficult temperament, aggression, poor self-esteem, poor peer relationships, depressed moods, insecure attachment patterns, and attention deficits. Furthermore, these childrenís problems seem to increase over time, and the continuity of problems has shown to be greater among children with depressed mothers compared to children who have non-depressed mothers. For this particular study, researchers aimed to further examine the effects of maternal depressive symptoms on the outcomes of the childís problematic behaviors in both childhood and early adolescence. This study also looked at the extent to which the effect of maternal depressive symptoms on a childís problematic behaviors changes by the level of the fatherís positive involvement.  The researchers of the study observed approximately  3,197 mothers and  6,552children (ages 0-10) for a length of ten years. Approximately 24% of the mothers lived in poverty, and 23.4% of women in the study reported having depressive symptoms. The results showed that higher levels of positive involvement by the father were related to the reversal of the childís problematic behaviors over time and that the effects of maternal depressive symptoms on a childís behaviors vary by the level of the fatherís positive involvement. The researchers suggest that the protective effect of a fatherís positive involvement shown in this study suggests that health care professionals should encourage the fatherís increased positive involvement with his children. If the father compensates for the limitations on the depressed motherís parenting, the childís risk of problematic behaviors may be reduced in the future.[1]

 

[1]Maternal Depressive Symptoms, Fatherís Involvement, and the Trajectories of Child Problem Behaviors in a U.S. National Sample, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 161, No. 7, July 2007, pp. 697-703.


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