An article by researchers at the University of Exeter has shed light on the link between depression and poor parenting. The article identifies the symptoms of depression that are likely to cause difficulties with parenting. The findings could lead to more effective interventions to prevent depression and other psychological disorders from being passed from parent to child.
Although the link between depression and poor parenting has previously been identified, this is the first time that researchers have brought together multiple studies in order to identify the reasons behind the parenting difficulties.
The editorial, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, indicates that parents who experience depression might be emotionally unavailable and as a consequence feel shame and guilt towards their parenting role.
The work also indicates that problems with memory - a symptom of depression - may affect a parent's ability to set goals for their child at the appropriate developmental stage.
In the weeks after birth a mother's interaction with her child leads to structural changes in the brain which helps her respond to the needs of the infant. These changes may also occur in fathers. If depressed parents have not had optimal and frequent interactions with their newborns they may not develop these brain changes, resulting in parenting difficulties that can ultimately lead to a child with behavioural problems.
Dr Lamprini Psychogiou from the University of Exeter said: "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.
"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."
Future research will test the mechanisms that link depression in adults with the difficulties they may have with parenting. An improved understanding of these processes will aid the development of more specific and potentially more effective treatments.
The work received support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care for the South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC).
For further information:
Dr Jo Bowler
University of Exeter Press Office
Office: +44 (0)1392 722062
Mobile: +44(0)7827 309 332
About the University of Exeter
The Sunday Times University of the Year 2012-13, the University of Exeter is a Russell Group university and in the top one percent of institutions globally. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 18,000 students and is ranked 8th in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide league table, 10th in The Complete University Guide and 12th in the Guardian University Guide 2014. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 90% of the University's research was rated as being at internationally recognised levels and 16 of its 31 subjects are ranked in the top 10, with 27 subjects ranked in the top 20.
The University has invested strategically to deliver more than £350 million worth of new facilities across its campuses in the last few years; including landmark new student services centres - the Forum in Exeter and The Exchange on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, together with world-class new facilities for Biosciences, the Business School and the Environment and Sustainability Institute. There are plans for another £330 million of investment between now and 2016.
About NIHR PenCLAHRC
NIHR PenCLAHRC aims to bring together local universities and their surrounding NHS organisations to test new treatments and new ways of working in specific clinical areas, to see if they are effective and appropriate for everyday use in the health service. Where potential improvements are identified PenCLAHRC helps NHS staff to incorporate them into their everyday working practices, so that patients across the local community receive a better standard of healthcare.
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government's strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website.