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Impact of Family Depression on Kids

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 4 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Depression Mothers Fathers Children

A new study shows what many people have already feared or known – parents who are depressed can have a negative impact on their children's mental health. This recent research also showed that as parents' depression improved, their children's mental health similarly improved. Yet, if parents sink deeper into depression, their children will suffer from more mental health woes.

The study is important because it highlights just how significant a depressed parent's impact is on their child. With millions of people in Britain estimated to suffer from depression, it is only a small percentage who access the necessary services to treat their depression.

Studying Depression in Families

The aim of the study was to find out just what needs to be done to treat significant clinical depression, such that it stays in remission. In this way, it's not just a case of improving the symptoms of depression but also helping people to move beyond their depressive condition.

Depressed Mothers

When looking at depressed mothers, researchers investigated the effects on their seven to seventeen-year old children. When mothers were successfully treated for their depression, children showed dramatic benefits to their mental health. Sadly, those mothers who did not obtain effective depression treatment had children with increased mental health problems.

In this particular study, only one-third of the mothers obtained complete relief and successfully treated the depression. Also, only half of the mothers brought symptoms down by fifty percent, which researchers believe is the absolute minimum needed to provide benefits to the children of the depressed parent.

Other studies have shown that depression can flow through generations, which means it is particularly important that parents seek treatment now and continue to obtain treatment to ensure that depression symptoms are kept at bay.

Fathers and Depression

Researchers for the study commented that fathers can likely also affect their children's mental health if they are depressed. Although a mother's depression might have a stronger impact than a father's depression – given the more dominant role mothers tend to have – the effect should still be considered in terms of depressed fathers.

Differences Between the Sexes

When fathers are depressed, the mother might act as somewhat of a buffer to reduce the impact on the child. However, when a mother is depressed, the effect can be more direct and intense. This isn't to say that depressed fathers should not receive the same level of attention with regards to an effect on their child's mental health. It does, however mean that a mother's depression can be particularly damaging to her children while a father's depression perhaps less so – but still evident.

Successfully Handling Depression

Studies into depression and the effect of depressed parents on their children's mental health are clearly important, given that research shows a parent's depression can ultimately affect their child's mental health. In this sense, it is vital that depressed parents obtain treatment and help immediately.

They must also persevere and try to find the right treatment to put them into depression remission. Not only is it important for their own mental health, but also it benefits their child's mental health and well-being.

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