Drexel University School of Public Health study: Parental depression associated with worse school performance by children

7 Feb

Moi said in Schools have to deal with depressed and troubled children:
Both the culture and the economy are experiencing turmoil. For some communities, the unsettled environment is a new phenomenon, for other communities, children have been stressed for generations. According to the article, Understanding Depression which was posted at the Kids Health site:

Depression is the most common mental health problem in the United States. Each year it affects 17 million people of all age groups, races, and economic backgrounds.
As many as 1 in every 33 children may have depression; in teens, that number may be as high as 1 in 8. http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/understanding_depression.html

Schools are developing strategies to deal with troubled kids.

Andrew M. Seaman of Reuters reported in Parents’ depression may affect kids’ school performance:

Children perform worse in school when their parents are diagnosed with depression, suggests a study from Sweden.

The study found a significant negative link between parents’ depression and kids’ school performance, said senior author Brian Lee, of the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia.

“We obviously know that depression is a bad thing like any other mental health outcome,” Lee said. “It’s less recognized that mental health outcomes affect other people than the people themselves. So for parents or guardians, a vulnerable population would be their children.”

Previous studies found children with depressed parents are more likely to have problems with brain development, behavior and emotions, along with other psychiatric problems, Lee and his colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry. Few studies have looked at school performance, however.

For the new study, they used data from more than 1.1 million children born in Sweden between 1984 and 1994.

Three percent of the mothers and about 2 percent of fathers were diagnosed with depression before their children finished their last required year of school, which occurs around age 16 in Sweden.

Overall, when parents were diagnosed with depression during their children’s lifetime, the kids’ grades suffered. A mother’s depression appeared to affect daughters more than sons, they note.

Lee characterized the link between parental depression and children’s school performance as “moderate.”

On the range of factors that influence a child’s school performance, Lee said parental depression falls between a family’s economic status and parental education, which is one of the biggest factors in determining a child’s success in school.

The researchers caution that depression may have been undermeasured in the population. Also, they can’t say that a parent’s depression actually causes children to perform worse in school…. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-school-depression-parents-idUSKCN0VC2VS


Parental depression associated with worse school performance by children

Date:      February 3, 2016

Source:   The JAMA Network Journals


Having parents diagnosed with depression during a child’s life was associated with worse school performance at age 16 a new study of children born in Sweden reports.

Journal References:

  1. Hanyang Shen, Cecilia Magnusson, Dheeraj Rai, Michael Lundberg, Félice Lê-Scherban, Christina Dalman, Brian K. Lee. Associations of Parental Depression With Child School Performance at Age 16 Years in Sweden. JAMA Psychiatry, 2016; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2917
  2. Myrna M. Weissman. Children of Depressed Parents—A Public Health Opportunity. JAMA Psychiatry, 2016; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2967

Associations of Parental Depression With Child School Performance at Age 16 Years in Sweden ONLINE FIRST

Hanyang Shen, MPH, MSc1; Cecilia Magnusson, MD, PhD2,3; Dheeraj Rai, MRCPsych, PhD4,5; Michael Lundberg, MPH2,3; Félice Lê-Scherban, PhD1; Christina Dalman, MD, PhD2,3; Brian K. Lee, PhD, MHS1,6

[+] Author Affiliations

JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 03, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2917

Text Size: A A A




Supplemental Content





Importance  Depression is a common cause of morbidity and disability worldwide. Parental depression is associated with early-life child neurodevelopmental, behavioral, emotional, mental, and social problems. More studies are needed to explore the link between parental depression and long-term child outcomes.

Objective  To examine the associations of parental depression with child school performance at the end of compulsory education (approximately age 16 years).

Design, Setting, and Participants  Parental depression diagnoses (based on the International Classification of Diseases, Eighth Revision [ICD-8], International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision [ICD-9], and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision [ICD-10]) in inpatient records from 1969 onward, outpatient records beginning in 2001, and school grades at the end of compulsory education were collected for all children born from 1984 to 1994 in Sweden. The final analytic sample size was 1 124 162 biological children. We examined the associations of parental depression during different periods (before birth, after birth, and during child ages 1-5, 6-10, and 11-16 years, as well as any time before the child’s final year of compulsory schooling) with the final school grades. Linear regression models adjusted for various child and parent characteristics. The dates of the analysis were January to November 2015.

Main Outcome and Measure  Decile of school grades at the end of compulsory education (range, 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest).

Results  The study cohort comprised 1 124 162 children, of whom 48.9% were female. Maternal depression and paternal depression at any time before the final compulsory school year were associated with worse school performance. After covariate adjustment, these associations decreased to −0.45 (95% CI, −0.48 to −0.42) and −0.40 (−0.43 to −0.37) lower deciles, respectively. These effect sizes are similarly as large as the observed difference in school performance between the lowest and highest quintiles of family income but approximately one-third of the observed difference between maternal education of 9 or less vs more than 12 years. Both maternal depression and paternal depression at different periods (before birth, after birth, and during child ages 1-5, 6-10, and 11-16 years) generally were associated with worse school performance. Child sex modified the associations of maternal depression with school performance such that maternal depression had a larger negative influence on child school performance for girls compared with boys.

Conclusions and Relevance  Diagnoses of parental depression throughout a child’s life were associated with worse school performance at age 16 years. Our results suggest that diagnoses of parental depression may have a far-reaching effect on an important aspect of child development, with implications for future life course outcomes.                                                                                     http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2488039

Here is the press release from Drexel University:

Parental Depression Negatively Affects Children’s School Performance

February 03 2016

A new study has found that when parents are diagnosed with depression, it can have a significant negative impact on their children’s performance at school.

Researchers at Drexel University led a team including faculty from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and the University of Bristol in England in a cohort study of more than a million children born from 1984 until 1994 in Sweden. Using computerized data registers, the scientists linked parents’ depression diagnoses with their children’s final grades at age 16, when compulsory schooling ends in Sweden.

The research indicated that children whose mothers had been diagnosed with depression are likely to achieve grades that are 4.5 percentage points lower than peers whose mothers had not been diagnosed with depression. For children whose fathers were diagnosed with depression, the difference is a negative four percentage points.

Put into other terms, when compared with a student who achieved a 90 percent, a student whose mother or father had been diagnosed with depression would be more likely to achieve a score in the 85–86 percent range.

The magnitude of this effect was similar to the difference in school performance between children in low versus high-income families, but was smaller than the difference for low versus high maternal education (low family income: -3.6 percentage points; low maternal education -16.2 percentage points).

How well a student does in school has a large bearing on future job and income opportunities, which has heavy public health implications, explained Félice Lê-Scherban, PhD, assistant professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health. On average in the United States, she said, an adult without a high school degree earns half as much as one of their peers with a college degree and also has a life expectancy that is about 10 years lower.

“Anything that creates an uneven playing field for children in terms of their education can potentially have strong implications for health inequities down the road,” Lê-Scherban said.

Some differences along gender lines were observed in the study. Although results were largely similar for maternal and paternal depression, analysis found that episodes of depression in mothers when their children were 11–16 years old appeared to have a larger effect on girls than boys. Girls scored 5.1 percentage points lower than their peers on final grades at 16 years old when that factor was taken into account. Boys, meanwhile, only scored 3.4 percentage points lower.

Brian Lee, PhD, associate professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health, said there were gender differences in the study’s numbers, but didn’t want to lose focus of the problem parental depression presents as a whole.

“Our study — as well as many others — supports that both maternal and paternal depression may independently and negatively influence child development,” Lee said. “There are many notable sex differences in depression, but, rather than comparing maternal versus paternal depression, we should recognize that parental depression can have adverse consequences not just for the parents but also for their children.”

Depression diagnoses in a parent at any time during the child’s first 16 years were determined to have some effect on the child’s school performance. Even diagnoses of depression that came before the child’s birth were linked to poorer school performance. The study posited that it could be attributed to parents and children sharing the same genes and the possibility of passing on a disposition for depression.

The study, “Associations of Parental Depression With Child School Performance at Age 16 Years in Sweden,” whose lead author was Drexel alumna Hanyang Shen, was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Media Contact:
Frank Otto

If you or your child needs help for depression or another illness, then go to a reputable medical provider. There is nothing wrong with taking the steps necessary to get well.


Schools have to deal with depressed and troubled children

School psychologists are needed to treat troubled children

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1. About.Com’s Depression In Young Children http://depression.about.com/od/child/Young_Children.htm

  1. Psych Central’s Depression In Young Children http://depression.about.com/od/child/Young_Children.htm
  2. Psychiatric News’ Study Helps Pinpoint Children With Depression http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/newsarticle.aspx?articleid=106034
  3. Family Doctor’s What Is Depression? http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/depression.html
  4. WebMD’s Depression In Children http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-children
  5. Healthline’s Is Your Child Depressed?


  1. Medicine.Net’s Depression In Children http://www.onhealth.com/depression_in_children/article.htm

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