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How are children affected by maternal anxiety and depression?
Date:10/24/2013

Maternal symptoms of anxiety and depression increased the risk of emotional and disruptive problem behaviors in children as early as 18 months of age, according to new research findings from the TOPP study. The risk persisted into adolescence and also gave an increased risk of depressive symptoms. The study is published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

"The findings emphasize the importance of health professionals spotting mental health problems in the mother and/or the child as early as possible, for example when the child attends their regular health check-ups at the health clinic in the early years," says Wendy Nilsen, head of the TOPP study at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. She is also the lead author of the paper, which is a part of her doctoral thesis from 2012.

Nilsen points out that the health clinic is a meeting point for over 95 per cent of all Norwegian families with young children.

"This gives health professionals a unique opportunity to introduce early preventive measures against the development of mental health problems," says Nilsen.

Results from the study

  • When the mother reported high levels of anxiety and depression symptoms early in the children's lives, the children had a higher risk of emotional and disruptive problem behaviors during their childhood. In addition, the children had a higher risk of reporting depressive symptoms during adolescence.

  • The association between maternal and later child problem behaviors was already present when the children were 18 months old.

  • Disruptive and emotional problems and behaviors in the children were not affected by the mothers' mental health.

  • The researchers found that there was a tendency for disruptive problem behaviors to be a risk factor for later emotional problems, but not vice versa.

  • Boys and girls were generally similar with regards to
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Contact: Julie Johansen
julie.johansen@fhi.no
Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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