Examining whether offspring psychopathology influences illness course in mothers with recurrent depression using a high-risk longitudinal sample

Ruth Sellers, Gemma Hammerton, Gordon T Harold, Liam Mahedy, Robert Potter, Kate Langley, Ajay Thapar, Frances Rice, Anita Thapar, Stephan Collishaw*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
310 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Depression is known to be influenced by psychosocial stressors. For mothers with recurrent depressive illness, the presence of psychopathology in their children may have important effects on their own mental health. Although the impact of maternal depression on child mental health is well-established, no study to date, as far as we are aware, has examined the extent to which offspring psychopathology influences the course of depression in mothers with a history of recurrent depressive illness, what types of child psychopathology impact maternal mental health, or whether risks vary by child gender. Aims were to (a) Use a longitudinal design to examine whether adolescent psychopathology (depression, disruptive behavior disorder; DBD) predicts recurrence of a depressive episode and depression symptom course in women with a history of recurrent depression; and (b) To test if observed effects vary by child gender. 299 mothers with recurrent major depressive disorder and their adolescent offspring were assessed on 2 occasions, 29 months apart. Maternal depression and offspring psychopathology were assessed using semistructured interview measures. Cross-generational links across time were assessed using structural equation modeling. Analyses were adjusted for past severity of maternal depression. Offspring depression symptoms but not DBD symptoms at baseline predicted future episode recurrence in mothers. Depression symptoms in daughters (β = .16, p = .039) but not sons (β = -.07, p = .461), predicted an increase in maternal depression symptoms across time. Psychopathology in daughters is associated with long-term depressive symptoms in women (mothers) with a history of recurrent depression. Findings highlight the importance of careful assessment and management of mental health problems in adolescents for more effective management of maternal depression. This study suggests that offspring symptoms of depression may be important for the recurrence of maternal depression episodes. Girls' symptoms of depression may be a particularly important psychosocial stressor for the development of depressive symptoms in mothers with a history of recurrent depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-266
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Volume125
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

Keywords

  • Direction of effects
  • Maternal depression
  • Offspring depression symptoms
  • Offspring disruptive behavior
  • Psychopathology

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