Multiple studies have concluded that the children of depressed mothers are at increased risk for behavioral problems and other mental health issues. Data from 7429 mother–child pairs participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the UK indicate that maternal depression (assessed when the children were 1.5 year old) is associated with an increased risk of psychiatric diagnoses in the children at 7.5 years of age.
Not only were these children exposed to maternal psychopathology, they were more likely to be exposed to other risk factors for psychopathology (such as having a single caregiver, being of low socioeconomic status and being born to a young mother). The authors estimated that exposure to each additional risk factor increased the odds for having a psychiatric diagnosis by at least 20%. The authors conclude that preventive strategies need to be aimed not only at the treatment of maternal depression, but also at identifying associated risk factors.
Barker ED and Copeland W. Relative impact of maternal depression and associated risk factors on offspring psychopathology. BJP. 2012;200:124-129.