Are You Depressed? Your Kids Might Be Too

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.

If you are interested in learning more about depression and teens, check out this interview I did with Michael Yapko about teens and depression.

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).

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4 Responses to “Are You Depressed? Your Kids Might Be Too”

  1. Chelsea
    January 19, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    At the time, I didn’t know it, but my dad was depressed at the same time I was depressed as a teenager. Neither of us knew it and we were both miserable and fought a lot. There’s a link between parents and kids being depressed, and there’s also a link between parents who hover too much inadvertently setting up their own kids for possible depression, as discussed in this article:
    Teen depression is often best treated in specific ways:

  2. Henry Brown
    January 21, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    Apart from treatment importance should be given to social skill training. That will equip us to handle our emotions in a positive way.

  3. Xtina
    June 6, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    I believe this could be true and please pay attention why… When I was in junior high roughly 11 years ago, right around when zoloft medication for depression commercials came on tv with the sad little blob in the rain. Anyways, I absolutely was depressed in junior high and had frequent thoughts of suicide and wascabsolutely miserable all the time. I finally had gotten the guts to shyly reference towards the commercial a, “that’s what I have” only to have my mother tell me that I was just copying the commercial. Wow, so yeah I wish she would have looked into depression a little bit more then made her decision on helping me or not.
    Before I was a straight a, straight edge, innocent young one, now I’m a felon because I was also hovered over constantly and still am. Hovering PLUS disregarding a cry for help really frustrated me at such a difficult time and this does. Parents please the biggest thing you should do and advocate is be consistent, listen, and try, try in ways of putting effort into your child, much like reading these blogs. Thanks for letting me vent, hope it can help someone else.


  1. 1/21/11: Articles for Parents This Week | Radical Parenting - January 21, 2011

    […] will be in Boston and New York in late April if you want to book a workshop or event!Top Articles:Are You Depressed? Your Kids Might Be Too Our kids learn a lot from us. Let’s make sure they aren’t learning how to be depressed.The […]

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