Postpartum depression predicts offspring mental health problems in adolescence independently of parental lifetime psychopathology
Background. Postpartum depression (PPD) follows 5-15% of the life births and forms a major threat to the child's mental health and psychosocial development. However, the nature, continuance, and mediators of the association of postpartum depression (PPD) with the child's mental health are not well understood. The aim of this study was to investigate whether an association between PPD and adolescent mental problems is explained by parental psychopathology and whether the association shows specificity to the internalizing or externalizing domain. Methods. 2729 adolescents aged 10-15 years from the TRacking Adolescents' Individual Life Survey (TRAILS) were included. Both PPD and parental lifetime history of psychopathology were assessed by parent report. Adolescents' psychopathology was assessed using the Achenbach scales (parent, teacher and self report). Linear regression was used to examine the association between PPD and adolescent mental health. Results. We found a statistically significant association of adolescents' internalizing problems with maternal PPD, which remained when adjusted for parental psychopathology. We found no association for externalizing problems. Limitations. Underreporting of both PPD and lifetime parental psychopathology may have occurred due to their retrospective assessment. Conclusions. The association of PPD with internalizing but not externalizing problems extends into adolescence. Parental psychopathology does not explain this association suggesting a direct psychological effect on the child postpartum. If this effect appears causal, early treatment of parental psychopathology may prevent internalizing psychopathology in the offspring, ultimately in adolescence.
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