The study found a significant negative link between parents'
depression and kids' school performance, said senior author Brian
Lee, of the Drexel University School of Public Health in
"We obviously know that depression is a bad thing like any other
mental health outcome," Lee said. "Itís less recognized that mental
health outcomes affect other people than the people themselves. So
for parents or guardians, a vulnerable population would be their
Previous studies found children with depressed parents are more
likely to have problems with brain development, behavior and
emotions, along with other psychiatric problems, Lee and his
colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry. Few studies have looked at
school performance, however.
For the new study, they used data from more than 1.1 million
children born in Sweden between 1984 and 1994.
Three percent of the mothers and about 2 percent of fathers were
diagnosed with depression before their children finished their last
required year of school, which occurs around age 16 in Sweden.
Overall, when parents were diagnosed with depression during their
children's lifetime, the kids' grades suffered. A mother's
depression appeared to affect daughters more than sons, they note.
Lee characterized the link between parental depression and
children's school performance as "moderate."
On the range of factors that influence a child's school performance,
Lee said parental depression falls between a family's economic
status and parental education, which is one of the biggest factors
in determining a child's success in school.
The researchers caution that depression may have been undermeasured
in the population. Also, they can't say that a parent's depression
actually causes children to perform worse in school.
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In an editorial published with the study, Myrna Weissman points out
that providing mothers with treatment for their depression - with
psychotherapy or medication - has been shown to reduce problems in
"Therefore you should be treating the parents," said Weissman, of
the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia University
Department of Psychiatry in New York City. "Sometimes you have to
treat the children, but you should start with the parents."
Research suggests that depression may run in families, she told
Reuters Health. Additionally, childrearing is demanding and made
even more difficult if a person is suffering with depression.
"Depression is a real illness," she said. "Depressed patients are
awfully hard on themselves. They should be told itís not their
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1Pin6Jd and http://bit.ly/1Pin1W1 JAMA
Psychiatry, online February 3, 2016.
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