FEB 06, 2016 7:25 AM PST

Parental Depression Associated With Lower Academic Performance

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet

When you're depressed, every day has the potential to feel like the worst week of your life. Depression makes even the simplest of tasks difficult. The disorder hinders a person's ability to sleep, eat, work, and enjoy life.  

Depression also interferes with a person's ability to parent. Recently, epidemiologists found an association between depressed parents and worse academic performance in 16-year-olds.

The researchers wanted to examine the associations between parental depression and child academic performance at the end of their mandatory education (approximately 16 years old).

They examined parental depression diagnoses and school grades for all children born in Sweden from 1984 to 1994. The diagnoses were taken from both inpatient and outpatient records. The final sample included over 1.1. million children. Two percent of fathers and 3 percent of mothers were diagnosed with depression before their child finished their last required year of school.

The researchers found that when parents were diagnosed with depression, at any time before the end of their child's required schooling, the child's grades would suffer. The authors note that maternal depression seemed to negatively affect the academic performance of daughters more than sons.

The study was limited in that depression often goes undiagnosed. The authors also could not identify if the children were living with their birth parents.

"Our results suggest that diagnoses of parental depression may have a far-reaching effect on child development. Because parental depression may be more amendable to improvement compared with other influences, such as socioeconomic status, it is worth verifying the present results in independent cohorts. If the associations observed are causal, the results strengthen the case even further for intervention and support among children of affected parents," the authors said.

The study was published online in JAMA Psychiatry.
Source: JAMA Psychiatry, The JAMA Network Journals press release via EurekAlert!, Child Trends Data Bank
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
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