Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in
the United States, affecting about one in six adults at some
point. About 7.5 million of those affected each year are parents.
When a parent is depressed, the likelihood increases that his or
her children will develop this mood disorder as well.
In the population as a whole, for example, surveys indicate that
about 20% of young people develop depression by age 18. In
families where one parent is depressed, however, about 40% of
youths develop depression by age 20, and 60% do so by age
As with other psychiatric disorders (and health problems in
general), part of the reason that offspring of depressed parents
develop depression is genetic. But psychological factors also
come into play. Parents who are struggling with depression may
not be able to cope as well as others with the stress of raising
children. Or the sheer physical exhaustion that is typical of
depression may prevent them from being able to nurture and
support their energetic young ones.
Recognizing these challenges, researchers and clinicians have
been searching for ways to reduce the burden of depression on
parents and children alike.
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