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Maternal anxiety, depression may increase offspring risk for behavioral disorders

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April 12, 2021

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Adolescents whose mothers had anxiety or depressive symptoms were at increased risk for conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms at age 17 years, according to study results published in Journal of Psychiatric Research.

“Epidemiological data indicate that parental mental health difficulties, including anxiety and depressive symptoms, are among the strongest predictors of [conduct disorder] and [oppositional defiance disorder] in offspring,” Getinet Ayano, of the School of Public Health at Curtin University in Australia, and colleagues wrote. “However, we found no study that specifically evaluated the risk [for oppositional defiant disorder] in the offspring of parents with anxiety or depressive symptoms.”

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The investigators aimed to determine whether maternal anxiety and depressive symptoms and paternal emotional problems influenced conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder among adolescents aged 17 years. They analyzed data from a birth cohort study conducted in Western Australia and used the DSM-oriented scales of the Child Behavior Checklist to assess participants’ conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms. Further, they evaluated maternal depressive and anxiety symptoms via the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale, as well as paternal emotional problems via a self-reported questionnaire, when the child was aged 10 years. They explored associations using negative binomial regression model.

Ayano and colleagues adjusted for potential confounding factors and found conduct symptoms more commonly among children of mothers with anxiety (risk ratio [RR] = 1.76; 95% CI, 1.08-2.86), depressive (RR = 1.4; 95% CI, 1.01-1.95) and comorbid anxiety and depressive symptoms (RR = 2.24; 95% CI, 1.35-3.75). Findings also demonstrated increased risk for oppositional defiant disorder symptoms among children of mothers with depressive (RR = 1.24; 95% CI, 1.02-1.52) but not anxiety symptoms (RR = 1.23; 95% CI, 0.92-1.67). The researchers reported no associations between these disorders and paternal emotional problems.

“Given the current findings, early screening and interventions for [conduct disorder] and [oppositional defiant disorder] symptoms are needed in the offspring with maternal anxiety, depressive, as well as comorbid anxiety and depressive symptoms,” Ayano and colleagues wrote. “Further studies are needed to explore the possible mechanism through which these associations occur.”

https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20210412/maternal-anxiety-depression-may-increase-offspring-risk-for-behavioral-disorders

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