Psychosocial resilience in adolescent offspring of mothers with depression: testing causal mechanisms (2014)

DSPI Lead: Frances Gardner

Funded by: Economic and Social Research Council

Completed: 2014

Principle investigator: Dr Stephan Collishaw (Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences)

Maternal depression is common and can have a major impact on the whole family. The study objective was to understand why some children and adolescents of depressed mothers show better than expected developmental outcomes, while others develop serious and enduring psychological problems such as depression or antisocial behaviour.

This project makes use of two complementary datasets - a population cohort of parents and children recruited in pregnancy (ALSPAC, N=14,541), and a sample of parents with recurrent clinical depression (EPAD, N=337). Both studies have followed parents and their children as they grow older. This means that analyses can begin to disentangle underlying causal processes  by testing how change in young people's mental health is related to change in factors thought to promote resilience (and vice versa). Multiple spheres of influence on adolescent development were considered, including family, child and peer factors.

The study examined long-term protective effects, as well as change in well-being such as recovery from earlier emotional or behavioural problems. The study also aimed to identify ‘risk buffers’ especially important in the context of maternal depression, and it examined whether processes explaining resilience differ for boys and girls.