Interventions to reduce maternal depressive symptoms, especially during infancy may have lasting effects on child neurological development. A longitudinal study recently published in the Netherlands has found that children whose mothers exhibited depressive symptoms during their infancy have measurable reductions in brain size even by age 10. These findings provide evidence for an observed link between maternal depression and ADHD in children.
The study followed mother-child pairs and measured maternal depression using the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), a validated self-report questionnaire, at four periods—during pregnancy (approximately 20 weeks’ gestation), postpartum (child age 2 months), early childhood (age 3 years), and preadolescence (age 10 years). After adjusting for possible confounding factors, researchers found that maternal depression at 2 months of age was associated with smaller volume of gray matter in the brains of the children at age 10.
“Maternal depressive symptoms in the perinatal period, in particular the postnatal period, are more likely to affect offspring brain development, which suggests a critical period of sensitivity,” the researchers concluded. “Furthermore, our study suggests that gray matter volume may be involved in the neurobiological mechanism underlying the association of maternal depression with child attention problems, which has rarely been reported, highlighting the possibility that interventions reducing maternal depression may have lasting effects on child development.”
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