Parental depression associated with kids’ poor school performance, says study

Parental depression associated with kids’ poor school performance, says study

With rising incidence of clinical depression among adults, many of them parents, millions of children are being caught in the web of parental depression. It can be a tremendous challenge for depressed parents to bond with their infants, resulting in the isolation of the babies from their parents.

Although no one knows why this is happening, more and more children are experiencing the impact of their parents’ depression, which shows in their school performance. In view of this challenging situation, a new study published by JAMA Psychiatry in February 2016 says that a parent’s depression has a direct impact on a child’s life school performance.

For the study, Brian K. Lee, Ph.D., M.H.S., from Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, and fellow researchers analyzed the school performance of children aged 16 who had a parent diagnosed with depression. The survey included more than 1.1 million children, with 33,906 mothers (3 percent) and 23,724 fathers (2.1 percent) experiencing depression before the final year of a child’s education. Surprisingly, the children’s school performance was found to be influenced by both paternal and maternal depression, with the latter leading to a greater impact.

“Our results suggest that diagnoses of parental depression may have a far-reaching effect on child development. Because parental depression may be more amendable to improvement compared with other influences, such as socioeconomic status, it is worth verifying the present results in independent cohorts. If the associations observed are causal, the results strengthen the case even further for intervention and support among children of affected parents,” the study concludes.

“The study by Shen et al concludes that ‘diagnoses of parental depression may have a far-reaching effect on child development.’ We extend that conclusion to state that effective treatment of the diagnosed parents may also have far-reaching effects. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 promised to significantly expand access to high-quality intervention for mental health and substance use disorders for the American people. Until the promise of a more personalized understanding of a common disease, such as depression, becomes reality, access to treatments that are vigorous, substantiated and evidence-based is a public health opportunity for improving the lives of both depressed parents and their children,” says Myrna M. Weissman, Ph.D., Columbia University, New York.

Link between childhood problems and parental depression

Not surprisingly, clinical depression in parents leads to a negative impact on their care-giving, support and nurturance, leading to far-reaching consequences on important aspects of the child’s development. According to a 2015 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected by this devastating mental disease.

For long, scientists have believed that children whose parents are depressed – due to frequent conflicts (with or without divorce), poor social skills and pessimistic attitudes – tend to develop low self-esteem or have problems at school. Many a times, children suffer in school because their parents fail to motivate them academically or tend to be more critical – they’re also more likely to have behavioral problems in school, as they are pretty vulnerable to the challenging atmosphere at home.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), following are the warning signs that indicate depression that needs some kind of help or treatment:

  • Sudden lack of energy in movement and speech
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Social withdrawal

Fighting depression

Depression is a common disorder, but many parents might feel reluctant to seek help and reveal any negative feelings regarding parenthood. Children whose mothers experience severe depressive episodes might suffer increased rates of psychiatric disorders and developmental problems. However, timely interventions for parents with depression can improve parenting behaviors, while medication can be useful in severe cases of mental disorder.

If you or someone you know is grappling with major depression, experts’ help must be sought. The Texas Depression Treatment Helpline is a powerful resource for those seeking information on depression and its treatments. We have helpful representatives standing by to take your questions and help you with relevant information. Chat online anytime with one of them, or call at 866-827-0282.