How Depression Affects Mother-Child Relationships

A mother's emotional stability will transmit security and comfort to her child. Getting help when a condition such as depression is detected should be a priority for all mothers so that the maternal bond with their child remains intact.
How Depression Affects Mother-Child Relationships

Last update: 30 September, 2018

It’s important to know how depression affects mother-child relationships, since this condition is more common than you might think.

When a woman brings a child into the world, there’s a truly magical connection between the two of them. However, several factors can break or damage this important bond.

After giving birth, women experience a roller coaster of emotions that can take them from a peak of happiness to the deepest of sadness on the very same day.

There are various factors that can cause this, but the important thing to note here is how these mood swings can affect the child (either positively or negatively).

It’s common for first-time moms to feel fear and frustration in their first days as parents. However, it’s important to understand how these emotions can directly affect children, as well as their family and social environment.

The important thing when detecting signs of depression is to seek professional help right away. We do this to avoid prolonging the symptoms and causing damage in the baby’s development.

Even if they happened when the child is a little older, it would still affect him. The child will always look for a way to please his mother, even if it causes him suffering.

How Depression Affects Mother-Child Relationships

How depression affects mother-child relationships

English psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott demonstrated important advances in the treatment of depression in mothers. Additionally, he explored how depression affects mother-child relationships.

He became interested in studying these types of cases after attending and observing the symptoms of a patient who was in the same position.

This patient was concerned about her son’s weight loss. However, she hid other situations that afflicted her at the time. Her reality at home was very delicate; she was being abused by her husband, and her child, being present in the moments of the abuse, presented a lack of appetite.

Although the child started to get hungry again no long after that, the psychoanalyst recommended that she go to therapy. Through that process, she was able to understand how depression affects mother-child relationships.

How depression affects mother-child relationships

Changes in behavior

When a mother is depressed, it’s common for her not to want to give love to her child, at least not as much as she should. This can lead to serious and varied consequences.

Many cases of violent children derive from the fact that they don’t receive enough attention and affection at home, plus a complete neglect of their needs.

Depression can affect mothers’ mental health so much so that they may even stop giving attention to their children completely, without taking into account the consequences that it might bring.


This is one of the most significant ways that depression affects mother-child relationships.

Mothers are in charge of offering security, tranquility, and calm to the child. Mothers put their children in a comfort zone where the chances of emotional disturbance are reduced.

When a mother is depressed, her priorities start to change, and she may start to leave aside the emotional protection that she must give to her children.

This has very serious consequences on children, since it may lead to complete retraction from their social environment, feelings of rejection, and lack of self-confidence and trust in others. 

Alteration of the natural bond between mother and child

When a mother suffers from depression, she neglects the attention that the child deserves, which weakens the existent bond between them. A child isn’t able to establish the connection he should have with his mother with anyone else.

The only person who has the privilege to share that bond is the woman who sheltered him in the womb for nine months.

In cases like the one above, the child’s needs must be met by a completely different person – someone who doesn’t share a magical and natural connection with him.

Perhaps the child’s most basic needs may be covered, but it’ll never be the same coming from a different person than from his mother.

How Depression Affects Mother-Child Relationships

Maternal self-absorption

Women in this mental state are unable to interpret their baby’s signals correctly. Therefore, their sensitivity to their child’s need decreases significantly.

By isolating herself in her own thoughts and not paying attention to her surroundings, the mother can’t even fathom how depression is affecting her relationship with her own child.

A depressive mother will live an unstable and unhealthy life, which will have repercussions to her child sooner than later.

It’s necessary for mothers who feel this way to receive psychological therapy and get help as soon as possible. Doing this can help prevent problems from arising in the future.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.