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The impact of underlying parental psychological vulnerability on the future mental health of offspring is not fully understood. Using a prospective cohort design, we investigated the association between dysfunctional parental personality traits and risks of offspring self-harm, depression and anxiety.
The association between dysfunctional parental personality traits (monotony avoidance, impulsivity, anger, suspicion, and detachment), measured in both mothers and fathers when offspring were age 9 years, and risk of offspring depression, anxiety and self-harm at age 18 years, was investigated in a population-based cohort (ALSPAC) from over 8000 parents and children.
Higher levels of dysfunctional maternal, but not paternal, personality traits were associated with an increased risk of self-harm, depression, and anxiety in offspring. Maternal associations were best explained by the accumulation of dysfunctional traits. Associations were strongest for offspring depression: Offspring of mothers with three or more dysfunctional personality traits were 2.27 (1.45–3.54, p < 0.001) times as likely to be depressed, compared with offspring of mothers with no dysfunctional personality traits, independently of maternal depression and other variables.
The accumulation of dysfunctional maternal personality traits is associated with the risk of self-harm, depression, anxiety in offspring independently of maternal depression and other confounding variables. The absence of associations for equivalent paternal traits makes a genetic explanation for the findings unlikely. Further research is required to elucidate the underlying mechanism. Mothers with high levels of dysfunctional personality traits may benefit from additional support to reduce the risk of adverse psychological outcomes occurring in their offspring.
Sleep problems are associated with increased risk of physical and mental illness. Identifying risk factors is an important method of reducing public health impact. We examined the association between maternal postnatal depression (PND) and offspring adolescent sleep problems.
The sample was derived from Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) participants. A sample with complete data across all variables was used, with four outcome variables. A sensitivity analysis imputing for missing data was conducted (n = 9633).
PND was associated with increased risk of sleep problems in offspring at ages 16 and 18 years. The most robust effects were sleep problems at 18 years [adjusted odds ratio (OR) for a 1 s.d. increase in PND, 1.26, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.15–1.39, p < 0.001] and waking more often (adjusted OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.05–1.25, p = 0.003). This remained after controlling for confounding variables including antenatal depression and early sleep problems in infancy.
PND is associated with adolescent offspring sleep problems. Maternal interventions should consider the child's increased risk. Early sleep screening and interventions could be introduced within this group.
Despite the high prevalence of postnatal depression (PND), few women seek help. Internet interventions may overcome many of the barriers to PND treatment use. We report a phase II evaluation of a 12-session, modular, guided Internet behavioural activation (BA) treatment modified to address postnatal-specific concerns [Netmums Helping With Depression (NetmumsHWD)].
To assess feasibility, we measured recruitment and attrition to the trial and examined telephone session support and treatment adherence. We investigated sociodemographic and psychological predictors of treatment adherence. Effectiveness outcomes were estimated with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7, Work and Social Adjustment Scale, Postnatal Bonding Questionnaire, and Social Provisions Scale.
A total of 249 women were recruited via a UK parenting site, Netmums.com. A total of 83 women meeting DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder were randomized to NetmumsHWD (n = 41) or treatment-as-usual (TAU; n = 42). Of the 83 women, 71 (86%) completed the EPDS at post-treatment, and 71% (59/83) at the 6-month follow-up. Women completed an average of eight out of 12 telephone support sessions and five out of 12 modules. Working women and those with less support completed fewer modules. There was a large effect size favouring women who received NetmumsHWD on depression, work and social impairment, and anxiety scores at post-treatment compared with women in the TAU group, and a large effect size on depression at 6 months post-treatment. There were small effect sizes for postnatal bonding and perceived social support.
A supported, modular, Internet BA programme can be feasibly delivered to postpartum women, offering promise to improve depression, anxiety and functioning.
Baumeister and Leary (1995) argue compellingly that human beings have a need to belong, and that this need may be deeply rooted in the experience of homo sapiens in their Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA). For humans, the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness is commonly taken to be the Pleistocene environment in which the overwhelming majority of human evolution is thought to have occurred. The need to belong to a group may, however, be only the most basic of the adaptations that emerged during the EEA for humans. It seems likely that a variety of other social adaptations have developed as well, and that these serve to further the goal of maintaining or optimizing group involvement and pair bonding.
Leary and Downs (1995) note, for example, that evaluative feelings about the self may serve as a social adaptation “that (1) monitors the social environment for cues indicating disapproval, rejection, or exclusion and (2) alerts the individual via negative affective reactions when such cues are detected.” (Leary & Downs, 1995, p. 129). Gilbert (1992) also hypothesizes that mechanisms to enhance smooth functioning within a group or dyadic context may have assumed increasing evolutionary importance as homo sapiens became more oriented to alliances and sharing. Gilbert (1992) highlights the emergence of strategies to gain and control others' attention through coalitions and cooperative activity, rather than exclusive reliance on strategies to attain dominance via threat and aggression.
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