Parental Depression: How It Affects Children

Parental depression can damage the emotional bond between parents and their children. Besides, it may lead to serious consequences in children's development. In today's article, we'll talk about the most important consequences.
Parental Depression: How It Affects Children
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Nowadays, approximately 300 million people suffer from depression. When this happens, not only depressed people suffer the consequences. It also affects their families. Furthermore, when there are little children in the family, they tend to suffer the most. This is why it’s so important to understand parental depression and how it affects children and teenagers. This way, you’ll be able to work on the possible consequences.

It’s very important to bear in mind that depression doesn’t only affect children when they live with their parents. In fact, childhood and adolescence are two stages when children develop their personalities. Therefore, the context in which they grow will affect the way they see the world and themselves. Furthermore, it will affect the development of their basic personal skills. These patterns will continue affecting them even during their adult age.

Parental depression

Father depressed.

Maternal depression and its influence on children have been widely analyzed, especially if this depression occurs after labor. Notwithstanding, if it’s the father who suffers from depression, children become affected as well. This is because both parents play the most important roles in their children’s lives.

Actually, depression affects parents’ emotional availability and their capacity to take care of their own children, while setting an example for them in their everyday lives. Besides, if either of the parents suffers from depression, things at home can become tense and negative, because depression will affect the couple’s relationship, too.

How does parental depression affect children?

Parental depression may affect children in different ways: It affects their emotions, behavior, and beliefs. The following are the most important consequences of parental depression:

Academic performance

Some studies have found a relationship between parental depression and children’s poor school performance. Whether this disease comes after childbirth or at any other moment in life, it usually contributes to poor academic performance and behavior problems in the child. 

Certain interesting findings have revealed that maternal depression affects children more than fathers suffering from it. What’s more, girls are especially vulnerable and sensitive to the effects of this situation.

It weakens the emotional bonds between parents and their children

The bond between parents and their children is built upon parents’ ability to respond to their children’s basic needs.

However, when either of the parents suffers from depression, it weakens their ability to understand their children’s needs and signs. Furthermore, the bond between parents and children becomes weaker and they form an insecure attachment.

Children learn from depressive behaviors

Children learn by imitating other people, especially their parents. When one of the primary caregivers suffers from depression, children are very likely to repeat the same negative, pessimist, and hopeless thoughts. In addition, they’ll find it hard to develop good social skills and emotional control.

Children feel insecure and confused

Even adults find it complicated to understand depression. So imagine how hard it can be for children. Sometimes, kids don’t understand what happens to their parents, and they may even blame themselves for their parents’ issues. Somehow, children believe that their parents’ behavior is their fault.

Besides, parents are the ones who should be in charge of providing their children with support, comfort, and protection. If their own emotions and personal state don’t allow them to perform these functions properly, children may end up feeling confused, insecure, and even responsible for their parents’ well-being.

Future bad relationships

Growing up with a depressed parent doesn’t only affect their relationship with their children, it also affects the bonds children create with other people throughout their whole lives. In fact, the quality of the relationships they’ll form will depend on their personality, beliefs, and skills. And, all these aspects have been affected by their parent’s depression. As a result, children are more likely to have unhealthy and negative relationships. 

Depressed mother.

Get help, for you and your children

Facing depression isn’t an easy task, and many people avoid asking for help because they don’t want to be stigmatized. However, now that you know how depression affects parents and children, it’s important to look for professional help in case you need it.

By doing this, you’ll be doing something to recover your quality of life. What’s more, you’ll contribute to your children’s present and future happiness. Finally, only if you’re healthy, you’ll be able to offer them the love, attention, and guidance they need. 

Parental depression affects children

In conclusion, depression is a serious illness that affects deeply people who suffer from it, as well as the people that surround them. Fortunately, nowadays, there are very helpful treatments. So, after reading all this information, if you believe you’re suffering from depression, or you’ve identified any of the previously mentioned signs in your children, don’t hesitate to look for help.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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