Kids who assume blame for their mother’s sadness are more likely to face depression and anxiety themselves, according to a new study which may lead to new early interventions to prevent these mental illnesses in children.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, suggested that parents, and others who regularly interact with children, pay attention to the comments that kids make about their mom’s symptoms.
About the Study
- In the study, the researchers assessed surveys taken by 129 mothers and their children.
- Children included in the study were 13 years old on average.
- Moms were asked to agree or disagree to 20 statements like “I could not shake off the blues”, and “I lost interest in my usual activities” to assess if they had depressive symptoms.
- Moms were also asked to assess whether they felt their children had symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Kids were asked to complete a total of four surveys to see if they were dealing with any anxiety or depression, and whether they blamed themselves for any signs of depression in their mothers.
- Nearly 12 per cent of the women surveyed were found to have potential clinical levels of depressive symptoms.
- Although mothers with higher levels of depressive symptoms face increased risk that their children will also experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, our study showed that this was not the case for all children.
- Rather, it was those children who felt they were to blame for their mother’s sadness or depression that had higher levels of internalising symptoms
- It noted that parents and caretakers should intervene if children incorrectly think it’s their fault that their mom is depressed.
- Children who take on this blame can benefit from therapies and interventions that target negative thoughts
There are two likely explanations for the linkage between mothers’ depressive symptoms, and kids’ own mental health issues:
- If children blame themselves for their mothers’ depressive symptoms, then they may be more likely to brood about their mother’s symptoms.
- Also, if children feel personally responsible for their mothers’ symptoms, they may try to ‘make it better’ and use ineffective coping strategies.
The scientists said more studies are needed to see if depressed dads have the same effect on their children.