According to The National Council on the Developing Child Working Paper on Maternal Depression, upwards of 20 percent of mothers suffer from feeling depressed at some time during their lives – and often when their children are still of a young age.
But depression doesn’t just affect women…
Though females are twice as likely to develop the condition. The American Psychological Association (APA) estimates that 9 percent of men in the United States have daily feelings of depression or anxiety.
Why are these numbers important?
Frankly speaking, children – particularly when they are younger – depend on continuous interaction from adults. Here’s Dr. Masgrove: “For young children, healthy development depends on the daily, consistent and responsive interactions with a primary caregiver.” It is worth mentioning at this point that up to one-third of fathers with working wives are regular caretakers.
Parents who battle untreated depression are less willing, or able to, say, help their kids with homework, remember a doctor’s appointment, or read them a bedtime story. In short, the quality of caregiving suffers – and the child’s development is often adversely affected.
Dr. Ann Masgrove, a developmental scientist and faculty member at the University of Arizona, specializes in family studies and human development. One wonders if this career choice was born out of what she herself experienced as a child. Indeed, Masgrove’s narrative is saddening and tragic…
“When I think back to my mother when I was a child, I don’t have a single memory of her smiling. She suffered from chronic, lifelong depression, and it affected me and my four siblings every day.” ~ Dr. Ann Masgrove: “How my mother’s depression shaped my whole life.”
“We quickly learned that we couldn’t depend on (my mother) for emotional or physical support,” Masgrove says. “At 7, I became my family’s caretaker.”
Transitioning to adulthood can be a difficult task, as well. Here we will focus on the possible effects of parental and maternal depression once a person reaches adulthood and beyond.
Here are 8 adult behaviors of someone who had depressed parents:
1. Disciplinary Problems
Most kids who have severe disciplinary problems are often experiencing some dysfunction in the home. Sadly, if the situation (i.e., a parent’s depression or poor caregiving) is not rectified, the odds of any behavioral and disciplinary troubles carrying on into adulthood increase considerably.
2. Social Difficulties
Per the World Health Organization (WHO), children with depressed parents are more likely to experience social problems: “The most compelling evidence for the impact of attachment status on the child is with respect to peer relations.”
The WHO report concludes that these social difficulties “have been shown to be related to behavioral problems, including disruptiveness, aggression, and delinquency, especially in boys.”
3. Withdrawal and Isolation
When a kid is worried about what’s wrong with mommy or daddy, the child may very well disengage from their external environment. This is a big problem because young kids require outside stimulation for healthy brain development. Sometimes, this relative lack of interest in the outside world extends to their peers.
In short, social withdrawal or isolation is one of the most damaging things to a child’s development.
4. Anxiety and Depression
Studies show that children of depressed parents are up to three times more likely to develop depression and anxiety than kids of non-depressed parents.
According to Healthline, scientists “believe that as many as 40 percent of those with depression can track it to a genetic link.” Environmental factors, according to the research, account for 60 percent.
5. Poor Emotional Intelligence
The poor emotional intelligence (EI) of adults with depressed parents is likely attributable to one of two things: (1) infrequent caregiver interaction that stunts emotional development, or (2) withdrawal from peers, which is essential to this type of intelligence.
Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management, the four components of EI, are far more important to success than IQ or educational attainment.
6. Underachievement or Overachievement
Here’s Dr. Masgrove: “I was a perfectionist, an overachiever, always trying to get my mother to notice me, always longing for her acceptance, love, and attention that just never came my way.” Masgrove’s personality carried on into adulthood.
On the opposite side of overachievers are those kids-turned-adults who have, most unfortunately, deeply entrenched cognitive, psychological, and/or social troubles.
7. Physical Health Problems
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) review study, a fair amount of evidence exists that shows a link between the quality of psychosocial care – measured by the caregiver’s affection, openness, and warmth – and a person’s nutrition and growth status.
Depression often leads to inadequate caregiving, which may ultimately negatively impact a person’s physical health.
8. Loss of Direction
Per the WHO report, “Infant temperament, particularly infant difficultness, has been found to be associated with the caregiver-child interaction,” adding “Mothers report feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of caring for a vulnerable child.”
Feelings of overwhelm (e.g., anxiety) unquestionably have strong environmental roots – and it’s something with which we all must contend. However, one’s outlook on life is also shaped by their caregivers; and an inability to manage (and see past) life’s obstacles carries a real risk of leaving someone adrift.