Parental Depression and Children
Research shows a direct connection between parental depression and the likelihood that the child will develop depression and other types of behavioral and psychiatric problems. Considering the fact that one in five Americans will experience depression at least once in their lives, this is very sobering information. Postpartum depression is equally worrisome because it affects the child from the moment of infancy.
Depression drains the energy of a parent and the ability to pay attention to the medical needs of their child. If a child has a chronic medical problem, such as asthma, a depressed parent can find it difficult to follow a medical plan designed to prevent an asthma attack.
The professionals most likely to become aware of parental depression are medical doctors, such as pediatricians. Despite knowing how difficult it is to treat the child without helping the parent, many doctors try to avoid discussing depression and anxiety for fear that the parent will feel blamed and insulted.
The fact is that none of us function alone. What happens to anyone of us involves the family we are part of. It's impossible to fully treat a patient outside of the family structure because of the influence the family has on it's members. In the same way, it's impossible to view a child separate and apart from it's parents. That is why it is important for all of us to be able to listen to our doctors when and if they make an observation about our mood. We know that mind and body are not separate and we know that an individual, adult or child, is not separate from the family.
Are you prepared to respond positively to your doctor is he asks how you are doing? There is no blame, criticism or accusation when a physician asks about your mood and expresses concern about anxiety, depression or stress.
Why is it important for doctors to ask parents about their mood? Depression and anxiety are treatable illnesses. Receiving treatment might prevent future difficulties for the child and bring relief to the parent. In addition, looking into the possibility of depression, a parent and doctor might anticipate future depression for a child if there is a family history of mood disorders. We know that depression can run in families.
Do you have children? Are they depressed? Are you willing to discuss it with your doctor or do you fear being blamed?
Your comments are encouraged.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD