Daycare beneficial to children with depressed mothers, finds study

Assistance payments are reducing the financial burden of childcare in spite of rising costs, study says.
Assistance payments are reducing the financial burden of childcare in spite of rising costs, study says. 

Children of mothers suffering mood disorders are less likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders themselves if they attend daycare, a new study has found.

Conducted by  the University of Quebec at Montreal, Canada and published in JAMA Psychiatry, the study followed almost to 1,800 children born in Quebec in 1997-1998 and their mothers through the child's fifth birthday.

As Reuters reports, women were regularly surveyed about their depression symptoms and reported on their child's emotional problems and separation anxiety, as well as the type of childcare they used.

About 19 percent of mothers had depression symptoms during the study period. And as previous research has suggested, their children were almost twice as likely to develop emotional problems and separation anxiety before age five.

The good news is that being in childcare seemed to mitigate that effect. The association was particularly strong for group-based childcare, as opposed to care provided by a relative or babysitter. The amount of time that the children attended daycare was also less important than the type of care the child attended. Researchers theorised that the structured setting of group-based care, having care provided by a trained professional and spending time with children of a similar age may all be benefits to that type of childcare.

Among children with depressed mothers, attending daycare was tied to a 79 percent reduced risk of developing emotional problems, compared to kids who stayed home with their mums.

"It's interesting to think of this as a possible type of intervention and a way of supporting mothers in general, but especially mothers who are at risk," said Catherine Herba, from the University of Quebec.

Guilt is one of the common symptoms of post-natal depression. Women often feel that they can't cope and that they are failing as mothers. Hopefully studies such as this one will help convince women that there is nothing wrong with seeking support and intervention for themselves and their child. In fact, it might even help.

If you are worried about mental health problems in yourself or a friend, talk to your GP or any other health professional. You can find out more at Beyond Blue (1300 224 636) and Post & Antenatal Depression Association, PANDA (1300 726 306). For immediate help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.