Studies have shown that children affected by maternal depression are more likely to face developmental challenges later in life, such as lower cohesion, warmth and expressiveness, and higher conflict, rigidity and affectionless control.
So, what is a mother to do? According to science, we need to look to dad for some answers.
Researchers at the Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center at Bar-Ilan University in Israel published results of their a study exploring whether fathering helps moderate adverse effects of maternal depression on the family dynamic. Ruth Feldman, Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) and colleagues, from the university's department of of psychology, published their findings in Development and Psychopathology.
In a longitudinal analysis, the group looked at married or cohabiting mothers of young children who experiences chronic depression. They observed interactions among the couples and their child from the time the child was a year old until they turned 6. The observations noted interactions between the mother an child, the father and child. They also watched videotaped interactions of both parents together with their child.
The findings showed that depressed mothers exhibited low sensitivity and high intrusiveness. Simply put, they frequently took over simple tasks that a child could do on their own, thus damaging their emotional and social development.
To counteract mom's influence, the children of depressed moms lower social engagement during mother-child interactions. To make matters worse, partners also exhibited sensitivity, high intrusiveness and provided minimal opportunities for child social engagement.
Though this parenting style isn’t doing any favors for family unit, it doesn’t mean that children exposed to maternal depression are doomed from the get-go.
Despite conflicting results, not all partners of maternally depressed women showed signs of distress. Those (fathers) who were sensitive, nonintrusive, and engaged children socially inadvertently acted as a shield for their child.
Where’s the unicorn? This is Magical!
Despite conflicting results, not all partners of maternally depressed women showed signs of distress.
"When fathers rise to the challenge of co-parenting with a chronically depressed mother, become invested in the father-child relationship despite little modeling from their wives, and form a sensitive, nonintrusive, and reciprocal relationship with the child that fosters his/her social involvement and participation," says Feldman, "fathering can buffer the spillover from maternal depression to the family atmosphere."
The Centers for Disease Control suggests that nearly 1 in 9 women experience postpartum depression, a severe mood disorder that can affect new mothers 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth. The symptoms include sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety and exhaustion, and can last anywhere from a couple of months to several YEARS if not properly diagnosed and treated.
Depression is an awful thing that can happen to anyone. The underlying message here is that both parents need to keep their mental health in check at all times, but it helps if one can remain stable.
When it comes to raising kids, we do whatever it takes. Sometimes, all it takes is two parents with the same vision.