Maternal symptoms of anxiety and depression increase the risk of emotional and disruptive problem behaviors in children as early as 18 months of age,according to new research.
The risk persists into adolescence and there is also an increased risk of depressive symptoms.
“The findings emphasize the importance of health professionals spotting mental health problems in the mother and/or the child as early as possible,for example when the child attends their regular health check-ups at the health clinic in the early years,” said Wendy Nilsen,head of the study at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
“This gives health professionals a unique opportunity to introduce early preventive measures against the development of mental health problems,” said Nilsen.
When the mother reported high levels of anxiety and depression symptoms early in the children’s lives,the children had a higher risk of emotional and disruptive problem behaviors during their childhood,researchers said.
In addition,the children had a higher risk of reporting depressive symptoms during adolescence.
The association between maternal and later child problem behaviors was already present when the children were 18 months old.
Disruptive and emotional problems and behaviors in the children were not affected by the mothers’ mental health.
The researchers found that there was a tendency for disruptive problem behaviors to be a risk factor for later emotional problems,but not vice versa.
Boys and girls were generally similar with regards to these findings. However,the researchers reported a tendency for problem behaviors in early school age (8.5 years) to be associated with later problems in adolescence for girls,but not for boys.
The study was published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.