Health & wellness

Be Well

Mother’s prenatal depression linked to child’s mental health

Pregnant women who suffer from depression may be more likely to have a child who will be depressed when they reach age 18 compared with pregnant women without the disease, British researchers report.

Researchers from Bristol University in the United Kingdom looked at data from 4,500 parents and their adolescent children. The higher a mother scored on a questionnaire assessing prenatal depression, the more likely her child was to be depressed by age 18. Among women who had postpartum depression, those with only a high school education were more likely to have a child diagnosed with depression at age 18.

The findings suggest that mental health interventions for women should be made earlier in their pregnancy and more often, the authors wrote.


BOTTOM LINE: Women who were depressed during pregnancy may be more likely to have a child who is depressed by age 18 compared with pregnant women who weren’t depressed.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

CAUTIONS: The findings do not show a cause-and-effect relationship between mental health of the mother and child. The study relied on mothers’ self-reported responses to questionnaires asking them to recall years later their mood during pregnancy, so the results may not be accurate. Mothers’ current mental health, which could play a role in their child’s depression status, was not considered.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Psychiatry, Oct. 9

Children with inconsistent bedtimes may misbehave more

Children who don’t adhere to a bedtime are more likely to exhibit poor behavior at school and at home, suggests a study from University College in London.

Researchers periodically surveyed parents and teachers about the bedtime routines and behavior of more than 10,000 children at ages 3, 5, and 7. Children without a regular bedtime were more likely to score lower on a behavior report by parents and teachers compared with those with a fixed bedtime. Difficulties in behavior included conduct problems, hyperactivity, and difficulty getting along with others.


Children’s scores worsened over time at each age in which they did not establish a regular bedtime, the study found. However, behavior scores improved among children who transitioned to having a regular bedtime. There was no difference in behavior, however, among children who changed from having a regular bedtime when they were younger to not having one when they were older.

Not having a regular bedtime can disrupt a child’s sleep rhythms and brain growth, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Children who don’t adhere to a bedtime are more likely to exhibit poor behavior at school and at home.

CAUTIONS: Inconsistent bedtimes did not suggest that the children without a regular bedtime slept any less.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Pediatrics, Oct. 14