Psychopathology And Functioning Among Children Of Treated Depressed Fathers And Mothers

Pilowsky, Daniel J.; Wickramaratne, Priya; Poh, Ernest; Hernandez, Mariely; Batten, Lisa A.; Flament, Martine F.; Stewart, Jonathan W.; Blier, Pierre; Weissman, Myrna M.

Objective: Recent findings suggest that remissions of maternal depression are associated with decrease in offspring psychopathology. Little is known about the offspring effects of decrease in paternal depression. Method: The offspring of married fathers and married mothers were compared. The analysis was restricted to married parents to control for the confounding effect of single parenthood which was more prevalent among depressed mothers. At baseline all parents met criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD), and participated in a 3 month randomized controlled trial to treat depression with a 6 month follow-up. Married parents (N¼43) and their children aged 7–17 years (N¼78) were assessed independently through direct interviews of children and parents at baseline and followed for 9 months. Child assessors were blind to the clinical status of parents and uninvolved in their treatment. Results: At baseline, children of depressed fathers, compared to children of depressed mothers, had significantly fewer psychiatric disorders (11% vs. 37%; p¼ 0.012) and less impairment as measured by the Columbia Impairment Scale (6.5 vs. 11.6; p¼0.009). Over time, with treatment of parental depression, the prevalence of most child symptoms decreased among children of depressed mothers, but changed little among children of depressed fathers. Limitations: The main limitation of the study is the small number of fathers and their offspring included in the study. Conclusion: Maternal as compared to paternal depression had a greater impact on children. With treatment of parental depression the differential prevalence of child symptoms by parental gender narrowed over time. The clinical implication is that children may benefit from treatment of their depressed parents.


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Journal of Affective Disorders

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February 1, 2022