Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Peer Troubles Partially Explain Link Between Maternal Depression and Adolescent Problems

A study published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry supports the finding that early depression exposure increases the risk of depression and anxiety in teens. This study also demonstrated that teens who are teased, harassed, and/or bullied in middle childhood are especially vulnerable.

”[T]he well-being of adolescents exposed to early maternal depression was associated more with their experience of victimization than with poor quality of parent-child relationships or to poor quality of relationships with friends in middle childhood,” wrote Sylvana Côté, Ph.D., of the University of Montreal and colleagues.

Côté and colleagues analyzed a subset of data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, which tracked and periodically assessed 2,120 families with newborn infants through the children’s adolescence.

The researchers found that children exposed to elevated symptoms of maternal depression during the first five years of life had higher rates of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and social phobia in adolescence than children with no early depression exposure. They next assessed the influence of three types of relationship difficulties during middle childhood (ages 6 to 12)—negative parenting behaviors, poor friendship quality, and peer victimization. Of these, only victimization by peers was a mediating factor in the association between maternal depression in young childhood and depression, anxiety, and social phobia.

The authors calculated that peer victimization contributes to around 36% of the risk of future depression and 22% of the risk of future anxiety or social phobia.

“The findings highlight the importance of considering … bullying prevention programs as a potentially promising target of intervention for children exposed to maternal depression,” Côté and colleagues concluded.

To read more about the adverse effects of bullying, see the Psychiatric News article “Bullying Linked to Depression in Youth With Autism.”

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