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Int Rev Psychiatry. 2003 Aug;15(3):243-55.

The impact of maternal depression on familial relationships.

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The Maudsley Hospital, Denmark Hill, London, UK.


Depression is one of the most prevalent psychiatric illnesses. It is particularly common in women of childbearing age. It is recurrent and tends to have a chronic course and is often comorbid in nature. It is important to view depression within its social context, as it is a disease, which impacts not only the individual but also the wider community. Evidence abounds as to the negative impact of maternal depression on children, husbands/partners, and family. Children of depressed women show deficits in social, psychological, and cognitive domains and are at increased risk for depression themselves and other psychiatric illness such as conduct disorder. They are also at an increased risk for child abuse. The mechanisms by which maternal depression may lead to child psychopathology including genetics, poor parenting, modelling, and environment are explored. Many children with depressed mothers cope well and escape negative effects; consequently the concept of resilience is elucidated. Research shows that a significant percentage of men become depressed when their wives/partners are depressed particularly if they have postnatal depression. There is an increase in marital discord and conflict within families of depressed women, all of which can have a deleterious effect on children. Children with two depressed parents are at an elevated risk of a negative outcome as compared to those with only one depressed parent. Finally the various interventions, management, and recommendations are examined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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