Researchers have recently found a link between mothers who feel depressed and negative outcomes for their children. Not only are children of depressed parents more likely to feel depressed themselves, but they also have more behavioral problems, are reported more by teachers and act out.
Researchers have pointed to a number of reasons for this. One, it bothers children to see their parents upset and their acting out behavior expresses this upset. Second, it has been found that children actually imitate their parents emotions as early as six days old. This is actually one of the primary ways we as humans learn to grow emotionally.
This actually brings us to an important and helpful conclusion. If we model optimism and empathy we can teach that to our children. This also gives us another reason to examine our own dark spaces. As adults, we have the tendency to want to ignore, or distract ourselves from negative feelings or depression. It is essential to combat and deal with these feelings not only to free ourselves, but also to be good role models for our children.
This is part of our Science of Family series. If you would like to read more articles on the scientific research and studies behind relationships, families and teens, please visit our Science of Families page for tips and updated research.
E. P. Davis, et al., eds., Prenatal Stress and Stress Phsyiology Influence Human Fetal and Infant Development, Placenta and the Brain, Birht and Behavior, Health and Disease (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
S. B. Campbell, et al., “trajectories of Maternal Depressive Sympots, Maternal Sensitivity, and Chidlren’s Functioning at School Entry,” Developmental Psychology 43, no.5 (2007).
A. N. Meltzoff, “Imitation and Other Mnids: The ‘Like Me’ Hypothesis,” in Perspective on Imitation: From Cognitive Neuroscience to Social Science, eds. S. Hurley and N. Chater (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005).