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Depressed Moms Raise Risk for Kids' Behavioral Woes

Depression during toddler years linked to antisocial tendencies

TUESDAY, Feb. 8, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A mother's depression may raise the risk for antisocial behavior in her child, especially when depression occurs early in her child's development, British researchers say.

Researchers at King's College, London studied 1,116 sets of twins and found much higher levels of antisocial behavior in 7-year-old kids whose mothers had suffered depression during the child's first five years of life.

The greatest risk for problem behaviors occurred in children whose mothers suffered from depression and also showed symptoms of antisocial personality disorder.

A family history of antisocial behavior "accounted for approximately one-third of the observed association between maternal depression and children's antisocial behavior," the study authors explained in a prepared statement. They say the study findings also suggest a strong environmental component linking exposure to a mother's depression with behavioral problems in her offspring.

The UK team believe a combination of three factors might explain the association between antisocial behavior in children and depression in mothers: First, depressed women are more likely to have antisocial personality traits related to depression; second, they are more likely to have children with men who also display antisocial behaviors; and third, children of depressed mothers may simply be genetically predisposed to antisocial disorders.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about child behavior.

SOURCE: JAMA, news release, Feb. 7, 2005
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