FRIDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Even very young children
can get stressed by depressed parents who display negative emotions
toward them, researchers confirm.
The new study included 3-year-old children who were subjected to
different harmless, but stress-inducing, situations, such as
causing them to become slightly nervous or frustrated. After each
stressful event, saliva samples were taken from the children to
measure levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The researchers also observed the interaction between children
and their parents -- usually the mother -- as they did a task
together or as the parent read a book to the child.
The largest stress responses were seen in children whose mothers
had been depressed at some point in the child's life and whose
mothers also displayed hostility -- frustration, anger, annoyance
or critical comments -- when playing with their children.
There weren't enough fathers in the study to offer a sense of
how they interact with children, and depression was less common
among fathers, said Lea Dougherty, of the University of Maryland,
and colleagues at Stony Brook University.
Stress is a risk factor for depression. These findings suggest
one way that a parent's depression can lead to depression in a
child, the study authors explained.
The report is slated for publication in an upcoming print issue
of the journal
The findings are "actually quite hopeful, because, if we focus
on the parenting, we could really intervene early and help parents
with chronic depression when they have kids," Dougherty said in a
news release from the Association for Psychological Science.
The Nemours Foundation has more about