Thursday, December 27, 2018

Daughters of Men With Postnatal Depression May Be at Higher Risk for Depression in Adolescence

Girls whose dads experienced depression shortly after their birth are more likely to develop depression by age 18, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry.

This cohort study of 3,176 father-offspring pairs in Southwest England explored the association of depression symptoms in fathers eight weeks after the birth of their infant and depression symptoms in the offspring 18 years later. The researchers also examined potential environmental pathways for depression risk. After adjusting for the age and education level of the father, they found that maternal depression had the greatest influence on depression risk, which explained 21% of the association, followed by conduct problems in the offspring at age 3.5 years, which explained 8% of the association.

“Our findings suggest that paternal depression during the postnatal period appears to exert its influence on late emotional problems in girls at least in part through maternal depression,” wrote Leticia Gutierrez-Galve, Ph.D., of the Centre for Psychiatry at Imperial College in London. “Maternal depression has been previously associated with impaired parenting, particularly sensitive parenting. Mothers with depression may show less maternal responsiveness or sensitivity, less verbal and visual interaction, and more intrusiveness during interactions with their infants.”

Parent participants, who were part of an ongoing population-based cohort study called ALSPAC, took the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, a 10-item self-report questionnaire at eight weeks after the birth of their infants and again eight months later. Also at eight months, mothers were interviewed about their relationships with their partners using a nine-item scale, asking questions such as “Do you get angry with your partner?” and “Does your partner listen when you want to talk about your feelings?”.

When the offspring were about 3.5 years old, the mothers completed the Rutter Revised Preschool Scales, which assess problem behaviors (emotional problems, conduct problems, and hyperactivity) and prosocial behaviors. The offspring were evaluated for depression at age 18, using the computerized version of the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised.

Ultimately, just over 7% of the 3,165 adolescents studied had a primary diagnosis of depression at age 18 years. Researchers found that the teens whose dads had depression eight weeks after their birth were 1.5 times more likely to go on to develop depression themselves. Couple conflict and paternal involvement did not appear play a role in the risk of offspring depression, the researchers wrote, noting they did not have enough data to explore the quality of parent-child interactions.

“Early conduct disorder in children appears to be a mechanism of risk transmission between depression in fathers and subsequent depression at age 18 years,” the researchers concluded. “Overall, these findings highlight the importance of recognizing and treating depression in fathers during the postnatal period and considering both parents when one parent presents with depression.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “New Primary Care Guidelines Recommend Routine Screening for Depression in Adolescents.”

(Image: iStock/StefaNikolic)


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