Children Of Depressed Mothers 1 Year After Remission Of Maternal Depression: Findings From The Star*d-child Study

Wickramaratne, Priya; Gameroff, Marc J.; Pilowsky, Daniel J.; Hughes, Carroll W; Garber, Judy; Malloy, Erin; King, Cheryl; Cerda, Gabrielle; Sood, A Bela; Alpert, Jonathan E; Trivedi, Madhukar H.; Fava, Maurizio; Rush, A John; Wisniewski, Stephen; Weissman, Myrna M.

Objective: Maternal major depressive disorder is an established risk factor for child psychopathology. The authors previously reported that 1 year after initiation of treatment for maternal depression, children of mothers whose depression remitted had significantly improved functioning and psychiatric symptoms. This study extends these findings by examining changes in psychiatric symptoms, behavioral problems, and functioning among children of depressed mothers during the first year after the mothers' remission from depression.

Method: Children were assessed at baseline and at 3-month intervals with the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children-Present and Lifetime Version, the Child Behavior Checklist, and the Children's Global Assessment Scale for 1 year after their mothers' remission or for 2 years if the mothers did not remit. The authors compared children of early remitters (0-3 months; N=36), late remitters (3-12 months; N=28), and nonremitters (N=16).

Results: During the postremission year, children of early-remitting mothers showed significant improvement on all outcomes. Externalizing behavioral problems decreased in children of early- and late-remitting mothers but increased in children of nonremitting mothers. Psychiatric symptoms decreased significantly only in children of mothers who remitted, and functioning improved only in children of early-remitting mothers.

Conclusions: Remission of mothers' depression, regardless of its timing, appears to be related to decreases in problem behaviors and symptoms in their children over the year after remission. The favorable effect of mothers' remission on children's functioning was observed only in children of early-remitting mothers.


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The American Journal of Psychiatry

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February 1, 2022