A new study shows children of mothers who were depressed after childbirth are more likely to be violent at age 11.
Researchers studied more than 120 families who lived in South London. Mothers were interviewed during pregnancy and three months after they gave birth.
They were also interviewed when their child reached 1, 4, and 11 years of age. Mothers, teachers and children were questioned about violent symptoms when the child was 11 years old.
Results of the study show most children were not violent. However, researchers found children whose mothers were depressed in the months after childbirth were more violent than other children. This correlation was especially apparent when mothers experienced depression at three months postpartum and at least once again after that. Violence was more common in boys at age 11 than girls and mostly involved fighting with peers.
Researchers say mothers depression and violence in children was associated with the child's inability to regulate attention and emotion. Previous research has found that problems in regulating one's attention and activity and in managing anger and responses to frustration are associated with violent behavior and various disruptive behavior disorders.
Researchers say they are unclear why depressed mothers are more likely to have violent children. They say biological factors could play a role. Dr. Hay says, "It is also possible that babies with heritable difficult temperament provoke depression in their mothers and that the child's later violence is entirely explained by pre-existing factors within the child."