Depression following marital problems: Different impacts on mothers and their children? A 21-year prospective study

Clavarino, Alexandra M., Hayatbakhsh, Mohammad, Williams, Gail M., Bor, William, O'Callaghan, Michael and Najman, Jackob M. (2011) Depression following marital problems: Different impacts on mothers and their children? A 21-year prospective study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 46 9: 833-841. doi:10.1007/s00127-010-0253-8

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Author Clavarino, Alexandra M.
Hayatbakhsh, Mohammad
Williams, Gail M.
Bor, William
O'Callaghan, Michael
Najman, Jackob M.
Title Depression following marital problems: Different impacts on mothers and their children? A 21-year prospective study
Journal name Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0933-7954
Publication date 2011-09
Year available 2010
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s00127-010-0253-8
Volume 46
Issue 9
Start page 833
End page 841
Total pages 9
Editor P. Bebbington
Place of publication Berlin, Germany
Publisher Springer International
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Purpose  With increased rates of marital breakdown it is important to identify the long-term mental health outcomes of marital problems and marital change for mothers and their children. Of particular interest is the possibility that mothers may benefit from leaving a relationship, but their children may not. This study examines the effects of marital quality and marital change on symptoms of depression in mothers and their children over 21 years.

Method  Data (3,512 mothers and 3,334 children) were from Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP), a population-based birth cohort study, which commenced in Brisbane, Australia, in 1981. Mothers and children were followed up at birth, 6 months and 5, 14 and 21 years after the initial interview. Marital status and marital quality were assessed at 5 and 14 years. Symptoms of depression were assessed in mothers and children at the 21-year follow-up.

Results  A poor-quality marital relationship at the 14-year follow-up was associated with increased symptoms of depression in both mothers (+3.3 symptoms) and children (+1.1 symptoms) 7 years later. Symptoms of depression in the mother improved if she changed to unpartnered status (−1.31 symptoms); however, children experienced an increase in depression (+1.30 symptoms). There was a substantial increase in mothers’ depression (+3.9 symptoms) associated with a poor reconstructed relationship but no change for children (0.68).

Conclusion  Marital transitions may improve symptoms of depression in the mothers but not in their children. Clinical decisions for families living in some difficult marital relationships need to take into account the association between maternal and child mental health particularly evidence from clinical samples that remission of depression in the mother improves outcomes for the child.
Keyword Child
Marital problem
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online: 25 June 2010

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Created: Mon, 20 Dec 2010, 15:38:14 EST by Charna Kovacevic on behalf of School of Pharmacy