Mother`s mental condition affects teenagers

Updated: Aug 03, 2009, 00:00 AM IST

Sydney: Teenagers whose mothers have mental health problems are likely to suffer behavioural problems, says a new study.

Using data from the Mater University Study of Pregnancy (MUSP), Belinda Lloyd from the University of Queensland (UQ) studied maternal mental health and its impact on children.

The MUSP is a study of more than 7,000 mothers and their children born at Brisbane`s Mater Hospital between 1981-83.

"Children whose mothers experienced mental health problems as their children grew older (during adolescence), had substantially elevated rates of the behavioural and mental health problems measured in the study," Lloyd said.

"Also, children whose mothers experienced recurrent mental health problems were significantly more likely to display behavioural and mental health problems.

"The impact of maternal mental health problems on children was found to vary, with the timing and recurrence of maternal anxiety and depression being important."

Lloyd said while there was a great deal of research and media interest surrounding postnatal depression, there had been less focus on the mental health of mothers over the course of child rearing.

Antenatal and postnatal depression alone were found to have no negative impact on children, a finding Lloyd hopes may help reduce the stigma surrounding the conditions.

"Self-doubt, feelings of guilt and social stigma could be alleviated knowing impaired maternal mental health is not necessarily going to compromise a child`s mental health and well-being into adolescence and beyond."

The study found mothers were more likely to experience mental health problems as their children became adolescents, a link which had not previously been adequately explored or documented.