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J Affect Disord. 2012 Feb;136(3):320-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.11.030. Epub 2011 Dec 16.

Family religion and psychopathology in children of depressed mothers: ten-year follow-up.

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Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, Teachers College, New York, NY 10032, United States.



Previously we found that transmission of religion from mother to adult offspring as measured by correlations on ratings of personal importance of religion and frequency of attendance at religious services was hindered by maternal depression. Concordance of denomination, a measure indicating successful transmission of denomination within a mother and offspring pair, was associated with a 71% decreased risk of major depressive disorder (MDD) in offspring. This study attempts to replicate the findings in a younger generation of mothers who were the original offspring or spouse of the original offspring in the previous study, and their offspring.


Mothers (N=45) and offspring (N=78) were assessed for MDD and anxiety using semi-structured clinical interviews (The Diagnostic Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia Modified for the Anxiety Disorders) at two points across a ten-year interval. Religiosity was assessed by report of personal spirituality, frequency of attendance at religious services, and religious denomination


Results partially replicate previous findings that maternal depression hinders the transmission of importance but not attendance or denomination to offspring. Concordance of denomination is protective, decreasing by 91% the likelihood of childhood anxiety or depression, independent of maternal depression. Limitations include small sample size that represents few denominations, limited assessments of religiosity, and inability to control for the possible confound of a close relationship between mother and offspring in our analyses.


Family agreement and practice of religious denomination may be a robust protective source from MDD or anxiety for youth, independent of the effects of maternal depression.

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