The US MedPage Today, published the results of an Australian study on the impact of maternal depression on child behaviour. The findings indicate that that two year-old children of depressed mothers were significantly less likely, when under someone else’s care for a minimum of a half-day each week, to show behavioural problems later on in life. Further to this finding, the study found that behaviour problems in children of mothers who suffer with recurrent depression, is more common.
These findings highlight the importance of healthy attachment and the quality of interaction from very early on in the child’s life. Besides serving as a reminder of the sensitivity of children, on a more positive note, these findings also demonstrate the level of resilience in children. Children who are under the care of other adults than their mother for more than 4 hours a week, be it with a nanny, day care institutions or other family members, appear to cope better with maternal depression.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the UK and it is regrettable that just one third of sufferers seek treatment as the vast majority can feel better just within a few weeks. This low figure is believed to reflect the stigma that often accompanies depression, in addition to the fact that many sufferers fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. Depression is characterized by a low mood state and sufferers commonly report to derive little or no pleasure from activities and things that have previously been enjoyable. Depression affects the drive of a person and often vital activities such as eating and sleeping are disturbed. For the young child whose sensory system is fully functioning, although too young to verbally process and communicate complex feelings of distress, the frustration is likely to be expressed through unruly behaviour. Anything to get mother’s attention.
Making use of supportive child care strategies
Putting in place alternative child care arrangements is unquestionably healthy for all children whether under the care of a depressed or non-depressed mother. Introducing supportive child care strategies can help buffer the effects of recurrent maternal depression on children. With a modest amount of formal child care made available for young children of depressed mothers the negative impact may be significantly reduced and may also offer the depressed parent a space in which to recoup.