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Monday, October 28, 2013

Depression in parents really does matter

In an editorial review in Psychological Medicine, Psychogiou & Parry have managed to capture the essence of our current understanding of the effects of depression on parenting and implications for children. They note that these implications may also exist for some other conditions such as anxiety, ADHD and Borderline Personality.

Some of the highlights of the article note:

* Parents with low positive affect interact less with their children;
* Parents high on negative affect tend to be intrusive or excessively critical;
* Depressed mothers may show  poorer emotion-regulation strategies;
*They may lower parenting motivation;
* Mothers and fathers with post partum depression may not interact as well with their infants and may, as a result, not build some of the brain circuitry that play a key role in a parent's motivation to be responsive and involved caregivers;
* Rumination in parents affects motivation but it may be more so with fathers;
* Depressed parents may also have lower cognitive flexibility to deal with the demands of parenting.

The authors also note that contextual or environmental factors that a parent operates within also are important. This would include marital conflict, single parenthood or socio-economic realities.

This review certainly brings increased credence to the need to ensure that we are intervening with depressed parents quickly and effectively so that their emotional awareness, regulation and interactions can be encouraged towards a child development lens.

In another recent report, Lewandowski and colleagues note how important the self esteem and resiliency of a child is in buffering the effects of depressed parents. Thus, our interventions need to look beyond the parents to also ensure that we are focused on what the child needs to build internal strengths. Parenting is bi-directional and thus, both parts of the interactional equation, parent and child, should be the focus of attention.

Properly treated, the vast majority of cases of depression respond positively to intervention. These recent publications help us to see that they are useful ways to think about avoiding the need for child protection involvement when other health care systems can see the problem and act quickly and effectively.


Lewandowski, R.E., Verdel, H., Wickramartne, P., Warner, V., Mancini, A. & Weissmann, M. (2013).  Predictors of positive outcomes in off spring of depressed and non-depressed parents across 20 years. Journal of Child and Family Studies, early view, doi: 10.1007/s10826-013-9732-3

Psychogiou, L. & Parry, E. (2013). Why do depressed individuals have difficulties in their parenting role? Psychological Medicine, early view. doi: 10.1017/S0033291713001931

As a result of the comment below, I am adding a link to their rather excellent info graphic

1 comment:

  1. maggie.danhakl@healthline.comOctober 26, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    Hi Peter,

    I hope all is well with you. Healthline just published an infographic detailing the effects of depression on the body. This is an interactive chart allowing the reader to pick the side effect they want to learn more about.

    You can see the overview of the report here:

    Our users have found our guide very useful and I thought it would be a great resource for your page:

    I would appreciate it if you could review our request and consider adding this visual representation of the effects of depression to your site or sharing it on your social media feeds.

    Please let me know if you have any questions.

    All the best,
    Maggie Danhakl • Assistant Marketing Manager

    Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health
    660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp

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