In a recent research published in the journal Child Development by the researchers of University of California San Diego School of Medicine, found that a mother’s depression can negatively affect a child’s cognitive development up to the age of 16. The research team lead was Dr. Patricia East, a research scientist with the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
The researchers surveyed approximately 900 healthy children and their mothers living in Santiago, Chile at five-year intervals from the child’s infancy through age 16. They observed how affectionate and responsive mothers were to their children at each age period, as well as how much mothers provided age-appropriate learning materials. Children were assessed on verbal cognitive abilities using standardized IQ tests during each assessment. Mothers were tested for symptoms of depression.
The results indicated that the mothers who were highly depressed didn’t invest emotionally or in providing learning materials to support their child, such as toys and books, as much as mothers who were not depressed. This, in turn, influenced the child’s IQ at ages 1, 5, 10 and 16. The lead of the research team Dr. Patricia East, a research scientist with the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine said that- “The consistency and longevity of these results speak to the enduring effect that depression has on a mother’s parenting and her child’s development.”
On a scale from one to 19, the average verbal IQ score for all children in the study at age 5 was 7.64. Children who had severely depressed mothers were found to have an average verbal IQ score of 7.30 compared to a score of 7.78 in children without depressed mothers.
This is an important finding for the health care providers as the results show that early identification, intervention, and treatment of maternal depression are key to helping the depressed moms to manage their symptoms in a productive way and ensure their children reach their maximum potential.
Study authors said future steps include further analyzing the data to see how mothers’ depression affects children’s own depressive symptoms through childhood and adolescence and children’s academic achievement and health, such as their likelihood of being overweight or obese.