Researchers at the University of Exeter have identified the symptoms of depression that are most likely linked to poor parenting.
Although the link between depression and poor parenting has already been identified, this is the first time that researchers have reviewed a variety of studies in order to identify the reasons behind parenting difficulties.
“We have looked at a wide range of research studies and identified multiple factors that link depression in adults to difficulties in their parenting role,” said Lamprini Psychogiou, Ph.D.
“This work will help identify areas in which future research is necessary in order to develop interventions that will prevent mental health issues from being transmitted from one generation to the next. We hope that this will go some way towards helping both depressed parents and their children.”
Depression, sometimes referred to as clinical depression, is a serious mental disorder characterized by overwhelming, daily feelings of sadness, a low mood, lack of energy, sleep and eating disturbances, and an inability to take pleasure in things that normal a person would enjoy. The symptoms must be present for two weeks or longer before it can be diagnosed.
The editorial, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, reveals that parents who suffer from depression might be emotionally unavailable and, because of this, feel shame and guilt surrounding their role as a parent.
The findings also show that a depressed parent may have difficulties with memory (a common symptom of depression), and this might affect their ability to set goals for their child at the appropriate developmental stage.
In the weeks after birth, a mother’s interaction with her baby leads to structural changes in the brain that allow her to better respond to the needs of the infant. New fathers may also experience these changes.
If depressed parents have not had optimal and frequent interactions with their babies, they may not develop these brain changes, resulting in parenting problems that can ultimately lead to a child with behavioral problems.
The findings could lead to better interventions designed to prevent depression and other mental health disorders from being passed from parent to child.
Future research will test the mechanisms that link depression in adults with the difficulties they may have with parenting. A better understanding of these processes will assist the development of more specific and potentially more successful treatments.
Source: University of Exeter.
This article first appeared on Psych Central on 19 October, 2013.