Effective treatment of a mother's depression reduces risk of psychiatric disorders in her children

Remission of a mother's depression within the first three months of treatment decreases the likelihood of her children having psychiatric disorders, such as mood or disruptive behavior disorders, within the same time period. Mothers who remain depressed increase the risk of her children having these disorders, according to a study in the March 22/29 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on women's health.

Lead author Myrna M. Weissman, Ph.D., of Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, presented the findings of the study today at a JAMA media briefing on women's health in New York.

Parental depression is among the most consistent risk factors for childhood anxiety and disruptive behavior disorders and for major depression, with more than a 2- to 3-fold increased risk in offspring of depressed parents compared with controls, according to background information in the article. These offspring problems often begin before puberty, continue into adolescence and adulthood, and can be transmitted to the next generation. The long-term affects include impaired social and occupational functioning and increased risk of medical problems. Although early onset major depression is highly familial and has a strong genetic component, environmental factors, such as disrupted parent-child attachment and poor parent-child bonding may affect the impact of parental depression on children's symptoms.

Dr. Weissman and colleagues examined whether effective treatment of a mother's depression with medication is associated with reduction of psychopathological symptoms and disorders in their children. The study included 151 mother-child pairs in 8 primary care and 11 psychiatric outpatient clinics who were part of the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) trial, which was conducted between December 2001 and April 2004. The mothers in the trial were treated with medication for depression. The children

Contact: Craig LeMoult
JAMA and Archives Journals

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