Maternal Depression and its Long-Term Impact
Maternal depression impacts about 15% of women in industrial societies and carries measurable effects on infant development. In several studies, including a longitudinal study from birth to adolescence, we describe developmental consequences of exposure to maternal depression, including susceptibility to psychiatric disorders, alterations to stress and affiliation hormones, immune system dysfunction, and alterations in the neural basis of empathy and attachment.
Maternal depression increases prevalence of child disorders – Exposure to chronic maternal depression markedly increases child propensity to display a full-blown psychiatric disorder, particularly anxiety and conduct disorders.
Maternal depression impairs the quality of caregiving from infancy to adolescence –depression impacts the mother’s ability to provide optimal age-appropriate caregiving.
Fathering can mitigate the effects of maternal depression – when fathers provide involved, sensitive caregiving they can mitigate some of the effects of chronic maternal depression on child mental health, social behavior, and the family atmosphere.
Exposure to maternal depression impairs children’s regulatory functions, social skills, and prosocial behavior – including the regulation of negative and positive emotions, executive functions, emotion understanding, social engagement, empathy, and friendship quality.
Maternal depression impacts the development of hormonal and immune systems –including functioning of the oxytocin system, diurnal and reactive cortisol, DHEA, and immune biomarkers as mediated by disruptions to maternal caregiving
Maternal depression longitudinally impacts the brain basis of empathy and affiliation –Maternal depression disrupts maturation neural systems that underpin empathy and attachment in adolescence.