Although the link between depression and poor parenting has previously been identified, this is the first time that researchers have brought together multiple studies in order to identify the reasons behind the parenting difficulties.
The study by researchers at the University of Exeter indicated that parents who experience depression might be emotionally unavailable and as a consequence feel shame and guilt towards their parenting role.
The work also indicates that problems with memory - a symptom of depression - may affect a parent's ability to set goals for their child at the appropriate developmental stage.
In the weeks after birth a mother's interaction with her child leads to structural changes in the brain which helps her respond to the needs of the infant. These changes may also occur in fathers.
If depressed parents have not had optimal and frequent interactions with their newborns they may not develop these brain changes, resulting in parenting difficulties that can ultimately lead to a child with behavioural problems.
The study is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.