Children whose mothers are depressed after childbirth are at elevated risk for violence by age 11, especially if the mothers suffered repeated depression, according to new research involving British families. The study also finds that in contrast to their peers, children whose mothers had been depressed at three months postpartum showed more diverse and severe aggressive behaviors than other children. The findings appear in the November issue of Developmental Psychology, a journal published by the American Psychological Association (APA).
As part of an ongoing, longitudinal study of child development, researcher Dale F. Hay, Ph.D., of Cardiff University and colleagues studied 122 families living in two communities in South London to see what affect the mother’s postnatal depression has on the development of children’s violent behavior. The participants were representative of urban populations in contemporary Britain. Mothers were interviewed during pregnancy, at three months postpartum and when the child was one, four and 11 years old. Mothers, teachers and children were questioned about violent symptoms when the child was 11.
As expected, the researchers found that most children in the study were not violent. However, those children who had mothers that had been depressed in the months after childbirth were more violent than other children, especially if the depression occurred at three months postpartum and at least once thereafter. The violence was more common in boys at age 11 than girls and mostly involved fighting with peers. The fighting often led to injury and suspension from school.
David Partenheimer | EurekAlert!
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